Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy 5th of July!

I hope that everyone has had a great Independence Day weekend so far! There’s still a bit of it left – definitely time for another grocery store run. One of the great things about summer is being able to wear shorts nearly everywhere you go, just like these ladies hangin’ out at an L.A. area Market Basket store in the above photo, which was taken for a 1956 Saturday Evening Post article.

Wait – they’re in Southern California, where people dress like this all year long!

Today is this website’s second anniversary. Thanks to my friends, old and new, for your loyal readership and your very kind and informative comments and emails!

Two years in, I’m thinking of ways to improve the site. From those who keep up with Pleasant Family Shopping on a regular basis, I would love to know the answer to two questions: 1.) Why? and 2.) What would make it more worthwhile? If you think about it and have time to send me a quick email (my address is in the “profile” section at the upper right of the page), that would be great. Thanks so much!


I want to thank all of those who commented or who sent me an email response to this post. I think I've responded to everyone personally by now (please let me know if I haven't!). I deeply appreciate the great suggestions, the very kind and generous feedback and the affirmation of what I've attempted to do here. The strong sense I get is that most readers are happy with the direction and content of the site, and would like it to continue as it has. For sure, there are some improvements I would like to make in the site's appearance and some additional content I want to add that hopefully I will be able to get to over time. Your readership and responses are what makes this all worth it. I hope to continue, Lord willing, until there aren't any old store chains left!


  1. I must spend waaaaaaay too much time surfing as I always have a picture handy. I enjoyed the picture of the Market Basket building that was actually woven as a basket. I have another of the same architectural genre, the Longaberger Basket Co. office building in Newark Ohio ... a multi-story office building designed to look like a picnic basket.

  2. Congradulations, Dave! As long as you keep it going, I'll be reading!

  3. Anything short of putting in a deli would be tampering with perfection! I love this blog, and your efforts are appreciated. Congrats on two years of Pleasant Family Shopping!

  4. I can't think of anything that would make this blog any better. All this time I thought I was the only one out there who obsessed over supermarket history!

    I'm hoping at some point to get somewhat of a history of my former "local" chain (Giant Eagle) or my current (Ukrop's, though I'm mostly a Kroger shopper), but I've loved everything I've read so far!

    Incidentally, going back to the beginning of your blog with your detailed history of Fisher's/Rego's/Stop-n-Shop in NE Ohio, did you know there is a second, non-related Fisher's chain south of Cleveland in the Canton area? They've been in existence since 1933 and have seven locations, the most recent being the seventh location in 2002 and a re-build of the original store in either 2004 or 2005 (I can't remember when it opened now). Just additional food for thought!

  5. There aren't many of us who can speak objectively about the things we like, present them in a comprehensive matter and consistently produce quality posts while doing so. But you do. And we all appreciate you for it.

    I can't think of anything to improve on that. Happy Anniversary!

  6. None of us can really compete with your retail blogs. You seem to have some secret source of this information that the rest of us have been unable to find anywhere, so there's really nothing I can say other than keep up the good work! However, still wondering if/when you can get to Richway and Treasure Island :)

  7. The picture certainly sums up the post War era American dream in which the more casual Southern California lifestyle was the vanguard of the 1950's and 1960's ideal. Add to the timeless architecture of the Market Basket building which has a timeless yet modern look.

    Was this building the headquarters for the pre-Kroger owned chain? It certainly evokes a forward look for one of Southern California's early postwar supermarket powerhouses. The building certainly lets the competition take notice, and possibly drew the attention of a national player(Kroger) to Market Basket. Ralphs, Von's, Mayfair, and Alpha Beta had to acknowledge Market Basket was moving into their league.

  8. I can't think of anything that would make this blog better. No, wait: Perhaps an open bar and some Beatles music? LOL j/k =] Just keep doing what you do and I'll keep reading.

  9. I love this blog, Dave -- your writing is engaging and informative, and you have a wealth of quality photos to go along with it. While there are a fair amount of retail history blogs/websites out there, yours is truly amongst the cream of the crop. I can't really think of any ways to improve it short of significantly broadening your scope, which I don't think is actually necessary whereas you fill a specific niche.

    I seem to recall seeing something you wrote at some point, a post or a response to a comment, where you said something about not really covering the downfall of companies, preferring to showcase them in their glory days when they were well-stocked and looked nice. I *think* I remember reading that here, anyway! At any rate, this is what I feel you do best...covering the days when Retailer X rose to prominence from its generally humble beginnings until things became not so rosy (e.g., you did a Dixie Square Opening post, but do not cover the "dead mall" Dixie Square, which is extensively documented elsewhere). There are plenty of great bloggers and webmasters out there covering dead malls and retailers, but you do something different, and what you do is very much appreciated as, if you don't know about the good times as well as the bad times, your knowledge is incomplete. Your blog serves to remind or educate all of us about the good times, and that is wonderful.

    Keep up the good work, and here's to many more years of great posts and expanding readership.

  10. Market Basket is an interesting subject and the sort of thing the blog can tackle. It was one of several chains bought by outsiders, particularly in the 60s. Chains large & small from elsewhere wanted to be in LA--it was large, rapidly growing and had many competitors, each with a geographic or other niche. Acme/American Stores bought Alpha Beta, A&P and later Fisher Foods bought Shopping Bag, Loblaw bought the small Better Markets chain, Albertsons bought All American Markets, Food Fair bought Fox, and soforth, plus Fedearated Dept Stores bought Ralphs. Almost none of these worked out except for Acme & Alpha Beta. Kroger stopped expanding and its sales stagnated through the 60s--they pulled out of DC where they had a smaller operation, and after initially growing Market Basket, they let it shrink. It's curious why they did this and why everyone else seemed to fail, as well.

  11. I'm in Southern California, and I wish people dressed like this all year long. You don't see too many women wearing high heels to the supermarket these days.

    (I have nothing to actually say about the site beyond "keep up the good work"!)

  12. I've been following this blog since I first stumbled across it. I'm wondering if you'll get to some Midwestern discount chains, like ShopKo.

  13. Dave, the pics and commentary is "TOP NOTCH" You always paint a great picture with your words and pictures and bring the reader to a time when these stores were "Pleasant Family Shopping!!" Keep up the GREAT work!!

  14. Congrats, Dave!

    I forget how i first found this blog, but i've been a regular reader ever since. The in-depth stories, engaging writing, and the beautiful array of photographs are what helps this blog float above most of the other retail blogs.

    I look forward to reading what more you have to share with us.

  15. Danny – It’s hard to imagine a better advertisement for a basket company than Longaberger’s home office, and it sure does recall the old Market Basket signs. A clever design, for sure. We have several of those baskets around the house. When we lived in Tennessee, my wife had several friends who sold them. They were zealous about it, to put it mildly!

    Didi – Thanks, it’s much appreciated!

    Dexter – Maybe a soft pretzel stand out front with hot dogs and Icees inside. Seriously, thanks!

    Anonymous – I do need to post about Giant Eagle one of these days. We have some friends who lived in Richmond and absolutely loved Ukrop’s. Thanks for the info on the “other” Fisher’s, and thanks so much for your kind words on the site!

    Steven – Wow. I don’t know how to live up to that, but I truly appreciate it. Thanks!

    J.T. – Much of my information comes from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal online archives, which are excellent for nailing down dates, major acquisitions, and sometimes even store openings. A lot of their info was fed directly to them from the chains’ publicity departments. Another database I use is called Newspaper Archive, which is an excellent source for tracking down information on individual stores in many locations across the country. Added to that is stuff from old retail textbooks and histories, trade magazines etc. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to buy or find in libraries. I wish I had a “secret source” - it would be much easier (and a lot less expensive)!

    I’ll probably get to Treasure Island before Richway, but they’re both on the list. Thanks!

    Ken – My thoughts exactly on the photo, it evokes that place and time very well. I’m pretty sure it is just a regular store location. It’s a great look, with its super-scaled pylon, but because of the “basket” pattern, it seems more classy than bombastic to me. They probably needed something like this get some attention in light of the competitors you mention. I am surprised that Kroger didn’t do more with them, but they’ve more than made up for it with their ownership of Ralphs in the last couple of decades.

    Kim – Thanks! I’m afraid I couldn’t afford all those liquor licenses. And my negotiations with Paul, Ringo, Yoko and Olivia aren’t going well - they’re still way out of my price range, but I’ll keep working on them! ;)

    Maybe I can dig up some public domain polka music instead!

    Kendra – Thank you so much. I recall writing something along those lines, but don’t remember where either! You’ve summed up how I feel about it, though. I agree there are some great sites out there which track these places through to the present day. I prefer to concentrate on the earlier history of these companies and leave the “retail archaeology” part of it to others. I think my work here is complementary to theirs. Thanks again for your kindness!

    Anonymous – The historical Los Angeles supermarket scene is a source of great fascination for me. Hyper-competitive, with the great chains you’ve listed always trying to outdo each other, right down to the architecture, which of course is one of the most fun aspects of it all. As you point out, even though a great many Eastern companies bought a stake in the market out there, very few were able to pull it off. Even today, an effective coast-to-coast grocery retail operation is a rarefied thing.

    Jim – Here’s wishing along with you! And thanks.

    Justin – Thanks for following the blog! I do need to get to some more Midwestern chains. The last one was Turn-Style, and that was a long time back. I’ve got a pretty steep learning curve on ShopKo at this point, and I’m looking to your site to help me out with that!

    Mr. Bluelight – Very much appreciated, and I still think you have one of the best screennames out there! Thanks again.

    Dcseain – Thanks, and I look forward to sharing more. Your feedback is always appreciated!

  16. Wow! this is pretty cool, I stumbled onto this while looking up history about Market Basket, I use to work for them back in the 70's, at that time they were owned by Kroger, then Kroger sold off all of their West Coast stores, I went through a few different grocery store companies between then and now, I now work for Ralphs who by the way is owned by Kroger, so I have made full circle in the 35 years since my Market Basket beginnings. Thanks for posting, and the ride down memory lane.