Saturday, April 12, 2008

Fazio's California Adventure

Under management by the Fazio/Costa group, Fisher Foods became widely recognized as one of America’s fastest-growing supermarket chains at the end of the 1960’s, going into the early 70’s. The company had begun a successful expansion program, adding other key Ohio markets to their original Cleveland base. The acquisition of the Dominick’s chain in Chicago was bearing fruit as well, and the purchase of Kroger’s remaining Chicago stores in 1970 would more than double their presence there.

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.
Thanks, Jeff!

31 comments:

  1. That first one looks like the Albertsons on Sierra Madre in Pasadena slightly. I have a list of all the stores thanks to Groceteria:

    1000 E Valley Blvd, Alhambra
    300 W Main St, Alhambra
    2408 Lincoln Ave, Altadena (closed in 1973)
    9927 Katella, Anaheim
    1407 S Baldwin, Arcadia
    2150 N Glenoaks, Burbank
    *401 E 2nd St, Calexico
    *Naval Weapons Center, China Lake
    960 W Arrow Hwy, Covina
    9937 Walker St, Cypress
    Firestone and Lakewood, Downey
    1040 Imperial Ave, El Centro
    11039 E Valley Blvd, El Monte
    16823 Foothill Blvd, Fontana
    1845 W Orangethorpe, Fullerton
    2904 N Brea St, Fullerton
    331 N Glendale Ave, Glendale
    515 W Broadway, Glendale
    517 S Glendora Ave, Glendora
    3208 E Florence, Huntington Park
    920 Foothill Blvd, La Canada
    3100 Foothill, La Crescenta
    1611 W Whittier Blvd, La Habra
    1111 Avenue I, Lancaster
    La Palma at Moody, La Palma
    15421 Amar Rd, La Puente
    1839 S La Cienega, Los Angeles
    140 W Foothill Blvd, Monrovia
    127 N Garfield, Monterey Park
    2280 Atlantic Blvd, Monterey Park
    Borchard at Reino, Newbury Park
    6744 Lankershim, North Hollywood
    815 E Avenue Q-6, Palmdale
    3841 E Sierra Madre, Pasadena
    451 S Sierra Madre, Pasadena
    457 S Fair Oaks, Pasadena
    9130 E Whittier Blvd, Pico Rivera
    127 N. San Dimas Canyon, San Dimas
    1120 Bristol, Santa Ana
    3305 State Street, Santa Barbara
    *8325 Foothill Blvd, Sunland
    304 E Foothill, Upland
    13630 Victory Blvd, Van Nuys
    1850 Telegraph St, Ventura
    913 S Glendora Ave, West Covina

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  2. Wait A second. That second picture of the store with all the glass, is 1000 E Valley, Alhambra. 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.

    Here is a picture of the current store:

    http://pic20.picturetrail.com/VOL174/1020161/2445935/175088204.jpg

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  3. Jeff - That's a great list, thanks!

    And also, Thanks Very Much for identifying and giving us the background on the Alhambra store. I tried to paste the link, but I think some characters were cut off the end of the string.

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  4. The last part of the link is:

    /2445935/175088204.jpg

    Also, the other market looks similar to the one on Sierra Madre in Pasadena, but its not this one. Many of these locations are still around as markets too.

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  5. I love your site bro!

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  6. I beleive I have identified the 2nd picture as well. I have a good feeling it is the store at 1611 W Whittier in La Habra. I visited this location yesterday and this is what I found:

    - What looks like a neighborhood in the back sorta matches.
    - The brick is still on 2 sides of the buildnig
    - 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.

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  7. Jeff - I looked at the Windows Live Local views of this address, and based on your description, I definitely agree. Thanks for going to the trouble to go check this out for us! It's amazing how small details can remain (like the light fixture)even after many renovations. The unpainted portions of the brick are a big help as well. The sign and its inverted "U" post design is the real clincher on this one for me. Thanks again!

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  8. No prob. I also remembered when this store became a Sears outlet, the doors were in that configuration. It was a Sears Outlet through the 80's to the early 90's. Market Basket built a new store in the same shopping center. When they closed, Hughes (a local chain) took over. They merged with Ralphs and that store became a Ralphs and then closed last year.

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  9. another guy named JeffApril 22, 2008 at 4:10 AM

    Thank you! I seemed to be the only person that remembered Fazios in the L.A. area. We would shop at the Whittier Bl store after church and now my own mother (who did the shopping) says she never heard of Fazios. I was starting to think I was nuts.

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  10. Jeff - Thanks for the additional info. I always think of the Bob Hope flick "Bachelor in Paradise" relative to the Hughes chain.

    The "other guy named Jeff" -

    Thanks, and I'm glad we were able to help confirm your memory. I'll admit that I was a bit skeptical when I first read that Fazio's once owned stores there. And when you think about it, Fazio's really was only out there for a short time, so I can definitely see where it would be forgettable.

    And the store pictured was the exact store you shopped at - how cool is that!

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  11. Great pictures..Carl Fazio is my grandpa, but I was born too late to see the stores in their prime (or remember them at all)

    This is pretty much the first time I have ever seen pictures of some of the stores.

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  12. Anonynmous, Thanks for stopping by. They were great looking stores, and Mr. Fazio did a great job with them. He is still alive, correct?

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  13. Yeah, he is alive. He will be 92 in January and is still going strong!

    He still plays golf and loves to cook. The more people he feeds/cooks for, the happier he is. His favorite tradition is making pancakes on Sunday mornings and they are absolutely amazing.

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  14. Anonymous - That's great to hear, and my best wishes to him! I grew up in Chicago in the 60's and 70's, when the Fazios owned Dominick's, a major supermarket chain there. They were always classy, well run stores.

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  15. Hello! This is a great find. My name is Matt Fazio and I am grandson to John Fazio Sr.

    Finding this site was a real trip down memory lane... Some good memories, some not so good. But it's nice to read the overall favorable comments.

    John Fazio Sr. is still alive at a spry 88, and is living in retirement in Dallas, TX. I used to spend every Sunday with him up until my wife and I had our second kid.

    I was in my early teens when the Fazio's chain was in the beginnings of it's fall, and can field a lot of questions any of you have.

    Interesting site, will read on it a bit more...

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  16. Matt - Thanks very much, it's great to hear from you. I'm glad you found the site. As to your comment about the good and not so good memories, as I was researching for the posts, I was saddened to read about the struggles your family went through during what was a difficult era for so many retailers. I am very glad to hear that your grandfather is alive and well.

    I can only speak from my family's experience shopping at the Fazio-owned Dominick's stores in Chicago from the late 60's through the early 80's that they were superb stores. I'm very confident that those readers of this site who grew up shopping there as well would say the same thing. It's truly a legacy to be proud of.

    My best regards to you and your grandfather, and I'd welcome the chance to ask you some questions at some point. My email address is in the "profile" section of the page if you'd care to send along your contact info.

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  17. Matt-

    Apparently, we're related (my grandpa is Carl and my dad is his youngest son Bob)

    I don't think I have met you, but I have met your grandpa a few times.

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  18. Cara,

    I think my grandfather (John Sr.) has a pic of you at his house, at least from before the fire.

    I'll ask for your email from Terry, she should have it (or you can look for me on FaceBook.)

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  19. And it turns out Fazio's California Adventured included an unbilled cameo in a movie. I was just watching the original 1977 version of FUN WITH DICK AND JANE, which tells of how a suburban couple turn to robbery to sustain their upscale lifestyle after the husband loses his job.

    Their first night seeking a ripe target, they come across a bustling Fazio's market. Jane (Jane Fonda) rejects it as "too big...too bright" as Dick (George Segal) complains "Why are all these people shopping in the middle of the night?!?"
    A previous line of dialogue says they are supposed to be in Monrovia, but I certainly couldn't tell if that was the Foothill Blvd. store.


    (on the subject on long-gone retail, they made a successful haul at the late night Tower Records shop on Sunset Boulevard)

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  20. Paul - Another great cinematic tip - thanks! I didn't catch that one when it came out but it always sounded like a fun movie!

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  21. If possible please have Cara or Matthew Fazio contact me. I am looking for John Fazio who was a student at Ashland College from 1970 to 1974. Also looking for Phil Guenarie, sorry not sure how to spell his name. Phil is also an Ashland College student. John and Phil were close friends and I was an occasional team member.

    John Horton
    586-792-6066

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  22. There was a Fazio's on Brookhurst Street in Fountain Valley that I remember very well. The bakery was unbelievable. I have never had a better Napoleon than the ones that were there.

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  23. the Shopping Bag store in Burbank can be seen in an episode of ''THE MONKEES '' tv show !!!

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  24. Regarding the Shopping Bag seen in The Monkees (for a split second): is it for sure the Burbank location? There's some other retail buildings attached to the store (a Mode O'Day and a tropical fish store) and the drugstore building in the background on the opposite corner appears to say 'J.W. Duffy Building'. It doesn't resemble that stretch of Glenoaks at all...

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  25. By the way, in the same driving montage that the Shopping Bag appears in, they also drive past a Safeway at one point.

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  26. I was the store manager at the Fazio's in Burbank in 1975 and 1976. It was a free standing building and there was (is) a drug store across the street. The Fazio's was demolished and a Masonic Hall now stands where the store was.

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  27. There was also a Fazio's on Harbor Blvd. in Garden Grove, California. The same street that goes by Disneyland. I used to lvie right across the street in the back of it.

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  28. I worked at the fazio's in San Dimas Ca

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  29. The second photo looks like the store that was in Monrovia at 140 w Foothill, it was demolished many years ago and is now a big shopping center that continues to change.

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