Grocery stores back when Gram was my age… any idea what they were like? Neither did I until I heard a story on NPR yesterday about the grocery store chain, A&P, and how they changed grocery stores in this county.
In doing some research for this post, I (as always with this blog) learned a few new things!
The first “self service” grocery store didn’t open until 1916 (the same year as Gram’s Cookbook was written) in Memphis, TN and was the Piggly Wiggly. Before this great innovation in shopping? You gave your shopping list to a clerk and they put it all in your bag or basket or… no wandering aisles, no impulse ice cream purchases, no shopping carts…
But, as Gram didn’t live in Memphis, she no doubt still used an old fashioned “dry goods” store, which sold dry things – beans, fabric, coffee…. The meat, milk, veggies were either produced by the family or bought from the butcher shop, the bakery…
Despite the innovations of the Piggly Wiggly, it wasn’t until the A&P amped up their efforts did we enter a more familiar grocery store. The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, as it was originally known, changed things by doing a new idea – dramatically cutting prices and only stocking items that sold quickly. Remind you of any other store? Yup, this is the Walmart model long before Walmart! In fact, there were similar concerns about A&P running out small shops, much the same way that Walmart is talked about today.
There’s so much to read about this and if you’re interested in what it was like 100 years ago…
NPR has a great article on How A&P Changed the Way We Shopped.
Another NPR article about how A&P changed modern shopping.
(Both of the above links have some really cool old pictures, too.)
And then, the book behind the NPR interviews…The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America by Marc Levinson. It’s not out yet, but you can pre-order it from Amazon.
Isn’t it interesting to see how different things were back then? Things certainly changed a lot during the 20th century!