It’s a good article (and not just because it cites me, thank you) about the history and future of Canadian supermarkets by food writer Corey Mintz. I’ll inclue the part that feeds my ego, but you should read all of it.
In the early twentieth century, there was no such thing as a one-stop shop for food. “You’d go out in the morning to the grocery store, for canned goods and bulk stuff,” explains David Gwynn, a librarian at the University of North Carolina and a supermarket historian. While there, you would speak with a shopkeeper to obtain your items; they filled your order behind the counter, weighing out dried goods from barrels. Customers would know the shopkeepers by name—and, often, vice versa. Other kinds of foodstuffs required trips to separate shops as part of this daily ritual: butchers and fishmongers, greengrocers and bakeries. These stores were much smaller than the ones we’re used to—maybe 1,000 square feet or less, says Gwynn—and were everywhere in our cities.
Transformed by a childhood visit to an old A&P, Gwynn is a grocery obsessive who maintains groceteria.com, a database of US and Canadian supermarkets past and present. Want to know the years that the Piggly Wiggly at 384 Academy Road in Winnipeg became a Shop-Easy (1950) and then a Tom Boy (1961)? Gwynn has answers. His vacations always include visits to older stores, ancient outlets like Pay’n Takit treated like houses of worship.