City Journal Summer 2014

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Summer 2014
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Ryan L. Cole
Walmart’s Ancestor « Back to Story

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...I remember the A&P in Santa Monica, located just off the corner of Yale street and Wilshire boulevard. I was born in '53, and my mother frequently shopped there, despite the fact that a much more modern grocery store was right next to our home. I never really understood why Mom wanted to trade off convenience to shop there, as it was small, poorly lit and had poor parking. I guess it was just habit; in her youth A&P represented what the newer chains had come to symbolize.
Sorry for the typos - CJ - can't you add an "edit" function (and yes I know - I should proofread more carefully)
Interesting, but the article does not mention, nor have I seen others mention, a major revolution in retain marketing - the fact that franchises now rule not only retail but other commercial enterprises that were once mom and pop. The family hardware store, the family pharmacy and other types are all but gone from the malls and streets of America. It is getting more and more difficult to find even a restaurant that is individually owned.

Whether the death of the individually owned retail is good or bar, I'll leave to others - economically it is a fact, so it is almost a waste of time to discuss it. It sure does take away the concept of "local" - when visiting the Cooperstown recently we noticed that the stores and restaurants in the area were just like back home - none of us were sure if that was comforting or repulsive.

As for A & P I remember the supermarket as higher priced and not as well maintained as others. The essence of our still somewhat capitalist system is that such places come and go. It is hard to miss a supermarket, though.
Fascinating -- at least to anyone who remembers the salad days (sorry) of the old A&P. Since I probably won't have time to read the book, I would have appreciated a precis on the forces, elements, or practices which were the undoing of the chain.
I wonder how much the automobile also has to do with this story. Before women drove, how far away could a grocery store be? My Midwestern town had grocery stores every few blocks. You can still see where they used to be in residential neighborhoods.
Small local stores also notice when someone hasn't been in for a few days. A small local store closes and someone who has been managing to live at home moves into residential care. Edge of town Walmarts are not a replacement. Local store closures have consequences that are not factored into the Walmart model and have to paid for by tax-payers and non-profits.
I remember the A&P from my youth, a true grocery store.
You've written an interesting book review, Mr. Cole. I hadn't thought about A&P for a while, though it was very much a fixture of the urban landscape when I was a boy . . . and into my young adulthood, for that matter. You've stimulated my curiosity as to what happened to all of those A&Ps; now I intend to read Mr. Levinson's book and find out.