These are the latest blog updates. Click on the title to read the full article.
Just a quick update to mention that I have greatly expanded the Boston listings, taking them back to 1925, and adding Cambridge. I also was recently in Boston taking pictures and generally roaming about the city. I’ll get more of these photos added later, but you may have already seen a good chunk of them if you follow me on Twitter, which you should.
I’m also actively tagging photos with the goal of getting a huge proportion of my collection online within the next year. More on that later.
Just FYI, there was apparently a problem with an older WordPress plugin that I have now disabled. It was causing some strange page artifacts in Chrome and Firefox.
I have disabled several photo galleries in the process and I honestly don’t have time to fix them right now. It may be next week on that.
Let me know if you have problems!
…additions, that is:
- Austin TX Chain Grocery/Supermarket Locations, 1924-1986
- Danville VA Chain Grocery/Supermarket Locations, 1930-2020
- Flint MI Chain Grocery/Supermarket Locations, 1925-1989
- Omaha NE Chain Grocery/Supermarket Locations, 1925-2021
- Lion & Ingles & Harris, Oh My! (radio interview with Yer Humble Host)
Once again, if you followed me on Twitter, you’d hear about these as they happen. You’d also see lots of pictures when I travel. And your life would be complete, guaranteed.
- Bridgeport CT, 1925-1985
- Gary IN, 1911-1975
- Kenosha WI, 1931-2020
- Racine WI, 1925-2020
- Saginaw MI, 1925-2020
- Springfield MA, 1925-1989
- Alexandria VA, 1927-1979
- Battle Creek MI, 1926-2010
- Lansing MI, 1925-1984
- Sault Ste. Marie MI, 1924-2020
- Waukegan/North Chicago IL, 1925-1990
The website is now officially old enough to have a beer (and it needs one after the past few days).
If you want more, you’ll just have to read the 20th birthday post from last year.
As those of you who follow me on Twitter are already well aware, I’m currently in Chicago. Since Canada was off the table this year, I reworked my October vacation in a very socially distant sort of way. As it happens, this is not really all that different from the way I usually travel. But some specifics, in case you were wondering:
- Obviously I would never visit anyplace where travel is restricted for me. The city of Chicago has a current travel ban, requiring 14-day quarantines for visitors from 21 states. Mine is not among them. (Note: As of today that is changing on the day after I depart.)
- On my regular trips, I minimize contact with other people. Now I do even more of that. I spend almost all my time either in my hotel or in my car exploring. I avoid crowds and I don’t go inside nearly as many stores as I normally might. I’m also skipping transit and not on foot as much as I would normally be.
- I get rooms where I can make some of my own meals and do takeout or drive-thru for most of the rest, or eat outside where that’s an option. I think I have eaten inside at a restaurant all of six or seven times since March, and in almost all cases the place was nearly or completely empty at the time.
- I am (of course) masked any time I’m around other people, as is any decent human being who cares about other human beings.
- I’m opting out of daily room cleaning in any hotel that still has it as an option.
Again, I’m not a terribly social person when I travel in general, so most of this is not a stretch for me, aside from the obvious transit and restaurant issues. That said, this seems like a good time to talk about how I travel in general:
- My primary activity when I travel is exploration. Cities fascinate me and I like to explore neighborhoods and streets. Supermarkets are a big part of it, and this site has definitely pushed me to explore in much more intensive ways than I used to, but finding supermarket sites is only art of the mix. As often as not, I don’t have a set agenda or list of stores I hope to see; that makes travel seem too much like work. Sometimes there are some specific stores I want to shoot. Usually I just shoot what I find in the areas I visit. The discovery is a big part of the fun.
- I do usually hit the library when I visit a new city where I haven’t done research (assuming there’s no global pandmeic at the time).
- I may stay in the city or the suburbs, depending on any number of factors. I usually do chain hotels because I don’t like surprises where I sleep.
- I do like surprises where I eat and I tend to avoid chain restaurants, unless it’s a quirky regional chain or a largely defunct one (or something like the last remaining White Tower in Toledo).
- I hate flying. I’m big, it’s uncomfortable, and I avoid it whenever possible.
- I try to do backroads when it’s feasible and when there’s actually something to see on them other than trees.
- I find the countryside to be a tremendous inconvenience that one is forced to cope with when traveling between two cities. Nature is not my thing.
(BTW, the photo above was taken in
Macy’s Marshall Field. Crowd were most decidedly not an issue there, which says a lot.)
Not to say I’m winding down the location lists (I’m definitely not) but after what I think is a pretty incredible run of those the past few years, I feel like working on something else for a while. And the new time-suck seems likely to be a digital library of my accumulated photos and documents (or at least the ones that copyright law will permit me to post). Keep in mind that this is actually what I do for a living as well, which may make the process go much faster…or much slower.
Library geek alert: For those of you who care about such things, I may build out the library using the Omeka platform, mainly because it would also help me to learn some of its quirks. At my day job, I am in the process of migrating our rather extensive digital collections from a commercial product called CONTENTdm to an open-source platform called Islandora. Both of those are more firepower than I really need here, so I’m going with Omeka, which will be considerably less labor-intensive. Unless I decide to get really creative at extending WordPress, like I did with this site.
Anyhow, watch this space…
Even though it has been a bit difficult to make myself sit at my computer all evening after sitting at it all day (work from home continues for me), I have made some additions. You’d know about these already if you followed the Message Board and/or Twitter:
- Tacoma chain grocery/supermarket locations, 1924-2020
- Jacksonville chain grocery/supermarket locations, 1925-2020
- Houston chain grocery/supermarket locations, 1925-1982
Stay safe. And wear your mask, dammit!
You might think staying at home 24-7 would mean that I would be doing lots of updates on the site. Sadly, it’s not really working out that way. After working from home all day ay my day job, the prospect of sitting at the same desk all night is not all that enticing. Nevertheless, I am working on a Houston location list that may be up later this week.
Other updates since the last time I mentioned them here:
- Des Moines, Iowa (new page)
- Bismarck, North Dakota (update)
- Jackson, Mississippi (update)
- Madison, Wisconsin (update)
- Topeka, Kansas (new page)
- Guelph, Ontario (update)
- Cheyenne, Wyoming (update)
- Bloomington/Normal, Illinois (update)
- Brantford, Ontario (new page)
- Orlando, Florida (new page)
- Brunswick, Georgia (new page)
Stay healthy. Stay safe. Stay home.
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.