The old adage “Go West, young man” has applied for generations not only to people but to businesses as well. For many retail chains, once they achieved a measure of success in their home markets, becoming a coast-to-coast operation became their burning goal. Oftentimes, as history has shown time and time again, this has proven to be extremely difficult to achieve. By the mid 1960’s the Two Guys department store chain was a dominant force throughout its geographic market, and their parent company, Vornado, Inc., was ready to make their move.
In July 1967, Vornado announced its intention to merge with Southern California-based Food Giant Markets, Inc. Only ten years had passed since Food Giant’s founding, and by that time the chain had grown to include 69 supermarkets, 14 Unimart membership discount stores, and 14 Builders Emporium home centers. Food Giant also owned Meyenberg Milk Products and its subsidiary, Foster’s Freeze, a 200-plus store franchised ice cream shop operation. The existing Food Giant management remained in place, with their top two executives taking seats on Vornado’s board.
Almost immediately, there were problems. Profits from the new West Coast operation were less than expected, creating a drag on the entire company. Trading stamps were dropped in favor of a discount pricing approach, offending many loyal customers. Well known local brands were replaced with those from the Two Guys stores, which of course were largely unfamiliar to California customers. Steps were taken to correct the problem, including replacement of the Food Giant leadership with Vornado veterans from New Jersey. At the same time, changes were made to the Unimart stores, including dropping furniture lines (yet curiously adding carpet departments), and remerchandising along the lines of the Two Guys approach. New Unimart units constructed by Vornado would be of a much larger footprint, another similarity to Two Guys. Eventually, even the Unimart name would be discarded in favor of the name “Two Guys”.
Ultimately, these measures fell short, leading to a decision to sell the supermarkets to various buyers in the very early seventies. Vornado’s West Coast discount stores were sold to Fed-Mart in 1977.
The photos above are of a typical Food Giant and Unimart as they appeared at the time of the 1967 buyout.