To keep the momentum going, the Southern California market was chosen as Fisher’s next expansion frontier. On June 12, 1972, a purchase agreement was announced between Fisher Foods and the Dayton-based E.F. MacDonald Company, owner of the Shopping Bag supermarkets, a 46-store chain with regional headquarters in San Gabriel, California and stores throughout the SoCal market. MacDonald, known best as the owner of Plaid Stamps, was eager to sell the operation, which had been losing money.
Shopping Bag Food Stores began its existence with one small grocery store on L.A.’s Wilshire Boulevard in 1930. Three years later, Shopping Bag would open its first supermarket, and the company would grow with the area from there, going public in 1954. In 1960, Shopping Bag was merged into Vons Grocery Company, adding its 38 stores to Vons’ 28. The Shopping Bag units would continue to operate under their original name. In 1965, The Federal Trade Commission filed suit against Vons in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, alleging that the Vons/Shopping Bag merger served to lessen grocery competition in the area. Initially, Vons won the case, but the Justice Department appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, who in a landmark ruling the following year ordered Vons to divest the Shopping Bag stores. The whole proceeding seems almost laughable today, considering the favorable eye the FTC has cast upon much larger mergers through the last 30 years or so, truly setting up a “mega-merger’’ climate.
In June 1967, Vons completed the sale of 40 stores (35 Shopping Bags and 5 Vons) to E.F. MacDonald. The MacDonald firm was founded by Elton “Mac” MacDonald, who in 1957 had sold out his 1/3 interest in Top Value Stamps, the brand used by Kroger and Boston’s Stop and Shop, among others. After initially turning away from the trading stamp biz when he ventured off on his own, MacDonald created Plaid Stamps and landed a huge customer for them at the dawn of the sixties– The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, who had previously resisted the trading stamp trend with vehemence. Eventually, competitive pressures and the pleas of A&P district managers led the company to adopt the stamps in a number of its regions.
A successful supplier to the industry, now MacDonald would try its own hand as a supermarket operator, in arguably the most dynamic market of all. They would modernize some stores, open new ones, and sell off a good number of the smaller units. MacDonald made a bold move in 1969 when they bought out A&P’s 31 supermarkets (adding to the 40 existing Shopping Bags at the time) in the Los Angeles, ending A&P’s presence there. A&P, having decided that they would need twice their present number of stores in Southern California to maintain a profitable operation there, opted instead to throw in the towel. The A&P stores were converted to Shopping Bags.
In 1972, having whittled down the Shopping Bag store count to 46 stores, MacDonald agreed to sell them to Fisher Foods. The stores would be rebranded “Fazio’s-Shopping Bag” and would shift to the ever-popular “every day low price” strategy, ditching trading stamps (Ironically, Shopping Bag gave out Blue Chip Stamps, the standard for most SoCal grocery chains, instead of MacDonald’s own Plaid stamps) along the way. The stores were remodeled, and deli and bakery departments were brought up to Fisher standards. Marshall Italiano was placed in charge, reporting to John Fazio in Cleveland. Ground was broken for a new office and distribution center in City of Industry, and the first all-new Fazio’s-Shopping Bag store was slated to open in the fall of 1974 in Fountain Valley.
The California (ad)venture didn’t last long, unfortunately. The troubled economy of the mid-70’s and Fisher’s growing internal and financial problems were largely to blame. Also, a couple of embarrassing incidents – charges of false advertising and mislabeling – made the news, affecting the company’s reputation. In 1978, the Fazio-Shopping Bag stores were sold to Albertsons.
The photos above are from 1973 and 1972 respectively, and show two Shopping Bag stores freshly rebranded to add the Fazio’s name. If you click on the enlargement of the second photo, you can see three original signs with the classic Shopping Bag logo, two backlit signs above the entrance doors and a neon sign (barely visible) on the right side, near the edge of the photo. Below is a full-page display ad from late 1972, trumpeting the ownership change and new pricing policy.
I’d love to know the location of those two stores. If anyone can advise on that, I’ll gladly give them a free one-year subscription to this site.
Oh wait, it’s already free…
In that case, a free “thank you” instead!
Thanks to Jeff for identifying the store in the second picture as the one located at 1000 E. Valley in Alhambra, and for bringing us up to date on that location: "It was remodeled in the late 70's and again in the 90's. Most of the glass in the front was taken off. This store was later converted into an Albertsons, then a Grocery Warehouse, then a Max Foods, now a Lucky store. That tower lasted until the 2nd remodel".
Jeff has come through for us once again, identifying the first store location as 1611 W Whittier in La Habra. He visited this location and found: What looks like a neighborhood in the back sorta matches.- The brick is still on 2 sides of the building- The Sign is still in the same spot on the store- The light to the left of the sign is present today.- The driveway is there but could have been refigured. The store over the years though has been remodeled at least two times.