These are the latest blog updates. Click on the title to read the full article.
Updates coming fast and free (literally) and as always you can see them more quickly via Twitter:
- Anchorage AK
- Phoenix AZ
- Redding CA
- Honolulu/Oahu HI
- Grand Rapids MI (includes new archival material and location updates)
- Columbus OH (includes new archival material with more to come)
- Spokane WA
As many of you know, the only resource I trust for full-scale research on locations is the city directory. Telephone directories are not really helpful, particularly for large cities. They tend to be incomplete, and often have no location information at all for some chains. In some cases, city directories have been digitized and published online. Some of these are on free, open-access sites like the Internet Archives, usually done as part of library digitization projects (which is may day job, interestingly enough) while others are behind a paywall at Ancestry.com.
In too many cases, the library-digitized volumes stop at 1963 due to copyright issues which may or may not actually apply. The directories at Ancestry, while helpful, are something of a mess. Often, most of a directory is missing because only one of the two reels of microfilm from which it was taken was scanned. It is safe to say not all the relevant material (or in some cases any of it) is available online. So it often comes down to print directories for me. That’s why I haunt public libraries whenever I travel.
That’s also why, two weeks ago, I visited the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Their genealogy center is perhaps the biggest open repository of print city directories in the country, and most of them are from the post-1960 period that other sources lack. I spent two days there and shot 1500 page images with my phone. This will allow me to complete numerous cities for which I only have limited data (Portland OR, New Orleans, Dallas, Spokane). It will also allow me to start several new cities like Seattle, Kansas City, St Louis, Milwaukee, and Houston. It should be a fun twentieth anniversary year for the site!
Sadly, a few cities will probably never be fully represented here simply because the city directories for those cities ceased publication before 1940. Specifically, this means New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia. There are numerous other cities, mostly in the northeast and midwest, where directories ceased in the 1960s (Newark, Baltimore) or 1970s (Washington, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Portland ME). This is unfortunate. Maybe I’ll find another resource for these cities. Or maybe someone else will.
I’m thinking of posting a wish list of cities where I need scans (or photos) of directory pages for certain years. I’ll also be updating the coming attractions page soon. If you want to help with another city, here’s the scoop on my methodology.
Thanks for stopping by!
Delaware very quietly became the last new state to be represented on the site sometime yesterday afternoon. I’d hoped to get to the point of having all 50 US states and all 10 Canadian provinces represented by at least one city profile by the site’s twentieth anniversary in July. It happened sooner than that, thanks to a bit of effort (not to mention some significant help from a contributor).
This is not by any means the end of updates. In fact, it just a beginning of sorts. There are a lot more cities to add; in many states, there are other cities I’m more concerned with than the one(s) currently on the site. I’m headed out on a major research trip next week that will help me fill in some big gaps. I’m also just about done with my photo indexing project, which means I’ll start posting a lot more photos and other material in addition to the city historical data (which has been the big focus the past few years) soon.
So thanks for stopping by. And stick around! I’ll try to come up with some other surprise for the big anniversary this summer, preferably one that’s more exciting than the fact that the site is now SSL-compliant.
Big road trip a-comin’
Since I’m doing a conference presentation in Cleveland the second week in April, I decided it would be a good jumping off point for a midwestern road trip where I’ll visit some old friends, do a big chunk of research, spend time in a city I’ve been wanting to explore more extensively for twenty years, and cover some new territory.
- Cleveland: Conference presentation and sadly not much else, but Cleveland is (relatively) close by and I get there somewhat regularly anyway.
- Milwaukee: First visit since 1998. I’ve been threatening to spend some time there ever since and this is my chance. I’ll also be visiting a friend who recently relocated about forty miles away. I’ll also put in some time at the library, naturally.
- Grand Rapids: I’ve never been there despite the fact that there was one point where we almost moved there when I was a youngster. I’ll be visiting an old friend from San Francisco I haven’t seen since 2006 or so.
- Fort Wayne: This will be the hardcore research portion of the trip. There is a wonderful place there called the Genealogy Center. I don’t do genealogy, but I use many of the same tools for Groceteria. This place has a massive collection of print city directories (my primary tool) that fills in many of the (very numerous) holes in Ancestry’s collection. I’ve planned two days. I am a big geek. Plus I haven’t been there since 1997 either.
I’d also planned to spend a few days in Detroit/Windsor, but I’m backing off on that for now because I have too much going on here to be gone for that long and because I’d like to spend more time there. Thus I may merge this with the annual Thanksgiving road trip to Canada this year.
Anyhow follow Groceteria on Twitter for real-time updates. Recommendations on things to see welcome.
Just returned from a snowy weekend in New Jersey, with side trips to Philadelphia and (drum roll, please) Wilmington, Delaware? Why the drum roll? Because I now have the data in hand to complete Groceteria’s 50th state, which I promised to do by the site’s 20th anniversary this summer. That’s coming soon, but for now, here are some recent additions and updates:
- New Orleans Chain Grocery/Supermarket Locations, 1929-1956
- Jackson (Mississippi) Chain Grocery/Supermarket Locations, 1927-1959
- Trenton Chain Grocery/Supermarket Locations, 1925-2005
- Atlantic City Chain Grocery/Supermarket Locations, 1925-1976 (UPDATE)
- Newark Chain Grocery/Supermarket Locations, 1925-1964 (UPDATE)
The store above is a still-standing Food Fair on Brunswick Avenue in Trenton NJ. There’s another one that’s even better here.
Also, I’ll be visiting the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne next month and will be filling in a lot of holes using their massive collection of print city directories from around the country. That trip will also take me to Detroit, Toledo, and possibly Lansing and Milwaukee. More soon.
Only three more states and I will have every US state and Canadian province covered on the site. I’m already working on the final three, which will be:
- Delaware (Wilmington): I may be traveling there to do a full list in the next few months.
- Louisiana (New Orleans): Only through 1959 for now. I will have to visit in person to do the rest.
- Mississippi (Jackson): Same as New Orleans.
Recent additions (in no particular order):
- Asheboro NC
- Rockingham NC
- Williamsburg VA
- Washington PA
- Keene NH
- Burlington VT
- Anchorage AK
- St Catharines ON
- Hamilton ON
- Oshawa ON
- Niagara Falls ON
As Groceteria.com moves into 2019, when the site celebrates its twentieth anniversary, I’m pondering (as always) the next steps toward what the site will be like in the future. Feedback is much appreciated.
So what is Groceteria.com?
As ever, this is a site about the history, geography, architecture, and business of American and Canadian chain grocers over the past one hundred years or so. The current focus is more on the geographic and “commercial archaeology” aspects of chain grocers, specifically unearthing historical location patterns and building histories. That is, of course, why the places section is the one that has really grown in the past few years; rooting out old locations (and sometimes photographing them) is the focus of my research and it’s the part I really enjoy the most. The site now covers every Canadian province and all but five American states, and I hope to complete all fifty states by my twentieth anniversary in July.
Presenting location histories is also the part that no one else is doing very intensively. Twenty years ago, there was not much on the web about chain grocery history. There’s a lot now, from photo sites to blogs to social media groups to very well-detailed (in most cases) Wikipedia entries. I like to think this site helped start that trend, and it’s not about competition. So I want to do the part I like and am doing best, which is locations and photos. I’ve been really neglectful of the photos in recent years and I’m working on rectifying that, getting my personal collection into shape so that it can be shared more easily and logically. Until then, I do post a lot of photos via the site’s Twitter feed (I hate Instagram) so if you don’t follow that, you’re missing stuff.
The fact that there is so much great material on chain histories, photos, etc. is why I also plan to get better about providing links to these resources in a more systematic way. Right now, it’s pretty informal; I add links to pages when I think to do it and I tweet interesting sites I’ve found. I want to be better about adding them in more permanent ways.
Finally, I plan to start adding more digitized versions of books and other archival material I have collected and to include links to other such material.
And what is it not?
Groceteria.com has never been (and most likely never will be) about independent and one-off grocers, rural stores, general stores, specialty stores, etc. It’s a site about urban chains. Period. I generally do not look at places with populations under about 10,000, and I primarily focus on cities or metros with more than 50,000 people.
I also do not attempt to be the definitive resource for chain company histories, particularly with respect to currently operating chains. Others are doing a better job of that than I ever could (particularly via crowd-sourced and wiki-based systems) and what I plan to do going forward is to create more pages, perhaps with some of my own information, and link to external resources rather than try to write these histories myself.
Again, as always, this is not, no will it ever be, a site about current supermarket operations. While I’m interested in this topic, this is not the forum; there are other places that are much better suited to that and I’ve always tried to be very careful (some might say “heavy handed”, particularly where the message board is concerned) about making sure that the site stays focused on history. This will continue.
So how can you play along?
The message board is not nearly as active as it once was, despite the fact that traffic is up everywhere else on the site. I take a lot of responsibility for that; there was a period of years when I was paying very little attention to it and to the rest of the site. I imagine I also alienated some users with an overactive moderation style in the past. I stand by the reasons for that, though I regret some of my tactics. For a time, I considered shutting it down and just making the archived content available; it was not being used and I was spending a lot of time deleting spam registrations. I’ve got a handle on that now, so I’m keeping it active, even though I think it’s maybe a little anachronistic at this point. So post away!
I’ve also expanded the ability to comment on site pages. There was a technological reason for why I didn’t do that earlier, but now you can comment on blog post and on static pages. Please do!
For now, I plan to continue using flickr to host and generate photo albums. I’ve never really been a big participant in the social media component of flickr, but feel free to dive in there as well, if you like.
If you’d like to contribute location lists, photos, or other content, I’m all ears. Other readers, notably Andrew Turnbull, Wayne Henderson, and Andy San Juan have contributed material for which I am most grateful. Here’s my methodology for location research, if you’re interested.
I’m not planning to do anything with things like Facebook groups, etc., mainly because I don’t want content to be locked into a closed “members-only” ecosystem. Plus I think Facebook is a dying platform, but that’s beside the point…
And you can add your thoughts below! That would be great…
Read it here: Krogering in Greensboro.
As a companion to my recent feature on the history of local A&P branches, I have just added a new photo essay detailing the story behind every Kroger location in my hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina, from the first in 1952 to the mass exodus in 1999.
The march toward having all fifty states and ten provinces represented here is nearing its goal. In fact, all the Canadian provinces are already represented as of a few weeks ago. Thanks to Andrew Turnbull for many recent contributions, and also to reader BM10K.
Additions since the last update, more or less in chronological order:
- Clarksburg WV, 1925-2015
- Fairmont WV, 1927-2015
- Phoenix AZ, 1925-1960
- Lansing MI, 1925-1960
- St Johns, NL, 1970-2018
- Fargo ND, 1924-2015
- Moorhead MN, 1924-2015
- Bismarck/Mandan ND, 1925-1960
- Sioux Falls SD, 1925-1960
- Kingston ON, 1948-2018
- Manchester NH, 1925-1964
- Fayetteville AR, 1925-1959
- Spokane WA, 1925-1960
- Cheyenne WY, 1926-1960
Also, I’ve been plugging away at tagging my photo backlog, so look for a lot (like, hundreds) of new photos in a few week.
And now back to not watching the election returns so I’ll actually be able to sleep tonight…
The Kroger location at 700 Spinning Road near Dayton, Ohio, apparently opened in 1967 as part of a small shopping center. Sometime in the 1980s, it was remodeled into a smaller adaptation of the “Greenhouse” style stores Kroger was opening throughout the chain. This decor package featured curving walls and super-graphics using the Bauhaus font. In most stores. The signage colors varied by department, but this is not the case in the Dayton store,. Based on the colors currently used, I suspect the signs may have been repainted during the “Grid” decor years of the 1990s. Otherwise, it is a pretty faithful abbreviated version of the “Greenhouse” model, and it still seems to be doing a pretty brisk business.