Remembering supermarkets

Dear Fellow Journalers,

G  remembers supermarkets. Enjoy!




From a very early age supermarkets have been a big part of my life, and continue to be so to the present day. I remember neighborhood “markets”. (“Super” came later) And yes, we walked to the market, carrying groceries home in two-wheeled, wire carts. (But we did this later, after the markets did away with the long-standing practice of home delivery.) Our neighborhood had 2 such markets, but both were really exactly the same. Both were located in small store fronts, that lined the main streets of our neighborhood. Each had 2 walls of shelves of canned and / or boxed goods, and the top shelves requires the storekeeper to use “grabbers” on the end of a long pole to reach the top shelves. Each also had an “island” in the center, that had mainly bread, but also other “special” items. But in both, the “heart” of the matter was in back. There, the proprietor of each store held sway as the butcher. A large freezer held large racks of meat, because all meat purchases were hand cut for you at the time of purchase. And each butcher prided himself as the master of meat cutters. (It was also how the women decided which market to shop.) And there was no employee turnover, as each market was run by a family, who hired close friends of the family. And they worked there FOREVER.

Then, the revolution started. The A&P “supermarket” came to the neighborhood. While far from todays supermarket, it had like 6 aisles instead of the usual 2, had dedicated cashiers to check you out, and had 2 butchers instead of just one. Some women liked this, with their greater variety, fresher products, and faster service. As the move from town to suburbs began in the mid to late 50’s, supermarkets became truly SUPER. People demanded more variety of products, and not having to return to town to get them. Over a dozen aisles were common, as were the names and specialty of each store.

Unfortunately, it meant the death of the small family run grocery store. Some supermarket chains took up residence in neighborhoods, and killed them off. Hellava’ shame, but so goes life and progress. I guess this turned out to be lucky for me. As a sixteen year old boy who had to earn his tuition for private high school and college, I got a job working in, you guessed it, a supermarket. (I even got a job working supermarkets in the town where I went to college.) It was here I learned the “secrets” of the supermarket business, and steadily worked my way through and up the ladder. (I was even offered a full-time mangers job after college, but I had other plans.)

Today, I still do some of the grocery shopping. I retired 5 years before my wife, and was the sole shopper until she retired. As I enter the supermarket today, and watch the employees scurry about, my mind flashes back to the days when the supermarket was the source of my income, and in many ways, a source of accomplishment and happiness. I can never thank the supermarket industry enough for the part it played in helping me get an education, both actual education, and in business. And oh yeah, today I’d like to thank that same industry for the delicious foods it puts on my table. Even today, supermarkets continue to be a source of satisfaction to me.







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