Welcome!

Established in 1999, Groceteria.com is a site about the history of American and Canadian chain supermarkets, from the 1920s through the turn of the century and beyond. This is not a site about current supermarket issues and operations, and it is not connected with nor owned by any supermarket chain. Here’s what you will find:

Recent Updates

Chain store density in 1930

Interesting bit of quick research I put together about the number of chain stores per capita in some American cities in 1930. I was inspired to do this as I started working on the Detroit listings. It seemed to me that there was an inordinately high store count relative to the population, and when I compared Detroit with several other large cities, I realized I was right. Of my semi-random sample, only Atlanta and Washington had higher per capita numbers of chain stores (defined here as companies that had three or more locations) in 1930.

This is unscientific and a not very controlled “quickie” but I may do more detailed research on this over time, because I find it pretty fascinating. It wouldd be interesting to dive into the “why” at some point as well.

City

Chain Stores (1930)

Population (1930)

Per 100000 People

Atlanta

276

270366

102.08

Washington

485

486869

99.62

Detroit

1499

1568662

95.56

Cleveland

706

900429

78.41

Pittsburgh

509

669817

75.99

Buffalo

427

573076

74.51

Baltimore

473

804874

58.77

Portland OR

167

301815

55.33

Newark

395

772337

51.14

San Francisco

318

634394

50.13

Kansas City

191

399746

47.78

Denver

132

287861

45.86

St Louis

373

821960

45.38

New Orleans

155

458762

33.79

New additions and upcoming things


Ketner’s, Lexington NC

Recent additions:

There have been some major urban areas added over the past two months as well as some smaller cities and towns:

Recent updates:

Upcoming:

  • I’ll be doing a roadtrip to Detroit, Toledo, and Windsor later this week, which will result in research and pictures. Follow @GroceteriaWeb on Twitter to keep up (and to get site updates a LOT quicker).
  • I’m in the process of adding links and random materials all over the site. A major photo upgrade is still on the way as well.
  • The Queue: Upcoming additions.

 

It was twenty years ago today…

On 5 July 1999, this store at 647 Irving Street, which I mistakenly believed might have been the first Safeway in San Francisco, became the first bit of chain grocery history I featured on the web (albeit at a different website) thereby launching what would become Groceteria.com a few months later — and indirectly launching my career as a librarian as well.

Here’s the specific quote:

Last, how many people know (or care) that the humble store on Irving Street pictured above was most likely the first Safeway store in San Francisco, way back in 1927? Even better, how many people will believe me (or care) when I say that there used to be Piggly Wiggly stores here in the 1930s?

I’d ventured to the San Francisco Public Library a few weeks earlier to look at city directories and satisfy my curiosity about the history of Safeway stores in the city where I lived at the time, and my surprising and fascinating discoveries led me to do research on the locations of all chain grocers in San Francisco. I then started taking pictures, eventually started doing this research in other cities, and an obsession was born. Now in its twentieth year, the website — which didn’t go live until 8 November 1999, so I guess I get to celebrate another twentieth anniversary in a few months — documents cities in all fifty U.S. states and all ten Canadian provinces.

Incidentally, I also found myself working in libraries so much and accessing digitized materials that I eventually decided I wanted to make providing access to historical materials my life’s work as well, so ten years later I found myself with a master’s degree and a new career. The latter put the site on the back burner for a few years, but once I got tenure, I returned with a vengeance.

Anyway, thanks for hanging around so long!

 

Archived Updates

The full collection of blog entries and site updates.