In 1890, formerly enslaved George P. Inge moved with his family from Danville, Virginia, to Charlottesville. Mr. Inge, a graduate of Hampton Institute, taught for two years at Jefferson School on 7th Street. On July 1, 1891, he opened Inge's Grocery Store at 333 West Main St, which was "nothing but a dirt road" at the time, according to his son Thomas Ferguson Inge. When in 1894 Jefferson School moved to a newly constructed building on 4th Street, George Inge turned down an offer to teach there for $28 a month. The salary was one of the highest offered at Jefferson yet well below that which a white instructor would have received. Inge instead continued to operate Inge's Grocery, a lucrative enterprise that would remain so for almost a century.
Inge's Grocery Store became a prominent Charlottesville business specializing in the sale of meat and fish. According to From Porch Swings to Patios: An Oral History Project of Charlottesville Neighborhoods, Inge's Store provided the only fresh fish in Charlottesville for some time, supplying the Clermont and Gleason Hotels, the Dolly Madison Inn, and the University Hospital, as well as fraternities and private homes. As the Vinegar Hill area developed into an African-American business and residential district, Inge's grocery stood at its center as an important commercial and social establishment.
George P. Inge himself was active within the Charlottesville community. In 1900 Inge was elected City Chairman of the Charlottesville Republican Party, and in July 1922, he was part of the Cox delegation that, because of its African-American members, was dismissed from the Republican Congressional Convention held in Luray, Virginia. Despite such political setbacks, Inge remained influential in the city. According to Thomas Ferguson Inge, local white philanthropist Paul McIntire "never made a contribution around here that he didn't come to my father about his intentions." McIntire donated much of the city's park land, including that for the segregated, black-only Washington Park. George Inge was also friends with Booker T. Washington, with whom he had attended Hampton Institute. When in Charlottesville, Washington stayed above the grocery store with the Inge family. African Americans were not welcome in white accommodations at the time.
After his father's death, Thomas Ferguson Inge, Sr. and his wife became proprietors of Inge's Grocery Store, running it from 1946-1978. Thomas Inge remembers his wife demanding appreciation and deference from white patrons, refusing to "respect them" until they would call her "Mrs. Inge." The store survived the razing of African-American homes and businesses in Vinegar Hill that resulted from urban renewal planning, making it one of the area's longest established businesses. Thomas Inge finally sold the store in 1979. Since then the building has housed a karaoke bar and several restaurants.
In 2004 the City of Charlottesville unveiled a historical marker honoring the significance of Inge's Grocery. The marker is located at the front of the 333 West Main building.
Geographical and Contact Information
333 West Main Street