Jitsuzo Nakata and his family came to America from Japan in 1899 and opened a barber shop on Bainbridge Island.
At around the same time, Tom Loverich came to Bainbridge from Croatia, and bought the Winslow Dock Grocery Store.
It would take another 50-plus years, but eventually these two families would come together to establish Town & Country Markets – where many of their descendants still work.
In 1940, John Nakata, Jitsuzo’s eldest son, built the Eagle Harbor Market on the site of his father’s barber shop and family home. He raised chickens behind the store for his weekly Friday fryer specials, and business was good. However, after the war began in 1941, the Nakata families were taken to internment camps along with all other Japanese Americans in the Northwest, and the market was sold.
After the war, the Nakatas returned to Bainbridge Island. For awhile, John and his brother Mo worked with their friend Ed, Tom Loverich’s son, making fishing tackle. But soon, they were all back in the grocery business.
Between the three of them, they purchased and operated three markets. Eventually, they sold their smaller stores, and on Aug. 29, 1957, they together opened Town & Country Thriftway on Bainbridge Island. Thus, Town & Country Markets was born. The grand opening on that August day was a community event on a grand scale – helicopters and heavyweight boxing champions and personalities from children’s television were there to mark the Island’s first “super” market – it even introduced islanders to its first set of automatic doors, then called “magic doors.” The store thrived.
In 1985, the company opened its first store on the east side of Puget Sound – Ballard Market. The store, since remodeled, is open 24 hours and located a block north of Northwest Market Street on 15th Avenue Northwest in Ballard.
In 1990, Central Market Shoreline opened, initially as Shoreline Price Chopper. It underwent a major expansion and reopened as a Central Market in January 2000 with a 10,000-square-foot produce market, 52-foot-long meat service counter and live shellfish tanks. This store, which launched the vision of “Celebrating Fresh!” is located just west of Aurora Avenue North at 155th Street.
In 1991, Greenwood Market opened as Greenwood Price Chopper. This store, which enjoyed being a part of this wonderful community, closed in February, 2012, when its lease expired.
In 1995, it was Poulsbo in Kitsap County that became the site of the company’s first Central Market, a destination store with the vision of focusing on quality and variety on a grand scale. That store underwent an extensive remodel in 2006.
In 2004, the company’s third Central Market opened in Mill Creek north of Seattle in the new Mill Creek Town Center. Serving a mobile community, this store has been described as an “Epicurean’s delight.”