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:
- About the site: Learn more about the history of supermarkets, your humble host, and my methodology, not to mention sources and links, and frequent questions.
- Places: Detailed histories of the geography and architecture of chain grocery retailers in the U.S. and Canada since the 1920s. This is the most intensively researched part of the site.
- Chains: Capsule histories of some North American supermarket chains, including photo galleries.
- The message board: A place to discuss the history of supermarkets and other retailers.
I visited Charlotte this afternoon because I needed a quick change of scenery and I had some errands I could just as easily do there.
While driving around, I snapped a photo of this former A&P on Freedom Drive, which I often do when I’m in the area:
I came home and got started looking at some old video from 1999.. It turns out I was also in Charlotte exactly twenty years ago today (on a visit home from San Francisco, where I lived at the time) and just happened to shoot video of this same former A&P for what was then the very new Groceteria.com:
So there you have it: the oldest and newest pictures I have of the former A&P on Freedom Drive, coincidentally shot exactly twenty years apart to the day.
I’m not sure when the tree burst forth from the asphalt…
Groceteria.com began its life as a freestanding website twenty years ago today, following the foreshadowing contained in blog post on another site four months earlier.
Originally, the site was more about specific chains and photos, and the location lists were limited to a few cities in California (where I lived at the time) and North Carolina (where I was born and raised and where I currently live). I added a message board early on and upgraded it significantly in 2007. The blog came in 2005. By 2009, I had moved the site into WordPress and also scrapped the “Did you bring bottles?” tagline, which referred to the question supermarket checkers used to ask when you bought soft drinks in the days of returnable bottle deposits.
Unfortunately for the site (but fortunately for me) I began a new career as an academic librarian in 2009, and the site languished to some extent as I got settled in my new position and eventually became a tenured faculty member who gets to work on things like this. Starting around 2014, I began to focus on the site again, but turned my attention more toward documenting locations in individual cities over time. This had been a feature since the beginning (San Francisco was the first) but it eventually became the primary focus for me. Earlier this year, the location list for Wilmington, Delaware marked the moment where every U.S. state and Canadian province was represented on the site.
Over the years, I’ve done a surprising amount of press based on the site, from neighborhood newspapers to major dailies, to NPR stations. I’ve been featured in both Progressive Grocer and Supermarket News. I’ve been cited in any number of academic articles, theses and dissertations, and National Register applications. In fact, I have far more citations based on this site than I probably ever will on anything I do in my actual academic career, which frankly amazes me.
For the record (and for those of you who want to see it in the Wayback Machine), the site didn’t have its own domain name in the beginning. That came a year later, and I was only able to obtain Groceteria.net. I scored Groceteria.com in 2003 when its previous owner abandoned it.
And I’ve met a lot of really interesting people, heard a lot of great stories, and had an amazing time over the past twenty years. Working on this site has taken me to cities and neighborhoods and libraries I might never have seen otherwise. In many ways, the site was also responsible for an entire new career for me as my work with digitized resources and websites made me realize that libraries were where I needed to spend my days, creating the very types of resources I’d been using.
Thanks for stopping by. It’s been fun. Stick around and I hope it will continue to be.
UPDATE: Things seem to be OK for now.
The message board is currently offline while I deal with some very problematic Chinese bots. No ETA on when it will be back online. Maybe tonight. Maybe not.
The full collection of blog entries and site updates.