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:

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:

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.

I think the map has filled in quite nicely since I recommitted to the site about four years ago.

The most recent additions (that you can get as they happen via Twitter):

More to come!

So what’s going on?

I’ve recently been getting pounded with hits from spiders and bots based mostly in Asia, who repeatedly try to access content on the board and flood it with requests that cause my web host to take it offline. As I am in a shared hosting environment (as are the majority of websites) this server load was causing issues for other sites on the same server, so my hosting company disabled the board. This is a totally acceptable thing and I do not blame them. But…

To get the board back online, I will likely need to move to a different web hosting plan which would isolate my account from other sites. This might not be all that much more expensive, but it would be kind of a pain, particularly given the fact that the board does not get much active use right now from new users and posts. That said, the board archive does get significant traffic and contains a wealth of content and knowledge created over more than a decade, so I don’t want to lose that.

I’m still pondering how to proceed. These are the current options I’m considering:

  1. Move to a higher level hosting plan and continue the board as is. This is the ideal option but also the one that requires the most investment of time and money from me.
  2. Find a way to archive a “read only” version of the board in static HTML (which would negate the database server issues) and publish that. Users would not be able to add new content. I could possibly do some additional third-party message board for new posts, which is not ideal but which would make things easier for me.
  3. Move the entire message board (but not the main site) to another hosting platform and leave it in place as is. That way, if the issues persist, it will at least not take down the main site. This would also require some investment of time and money due to paying an additional hosting cost and maintaining more frequent backups.

I’m going to try to decide something by the end of the weekend. Realistically, the board will probably not be back online for another week at minimum. Right now I have some major things going on work-wise (this site is a hobby, remember?) so I can only fight so many battles at once.

Thanks for understanding!

Update: I’ve decided to go with Option 3 for now. I hope to be back up by Tuesday, but no promises on that…

Update 2: Back up for now at a new URL (but the old one will redirect). I will be monitoring.

The message board is currently offline due to hacking attempts and repeated issues with spiders and bots that have taken its content down several times in recent months.

I will work to restore it as quickly as possible, or at least to get a read-only archive in place. I cannot, however, say how soon that might happen. I do have a database backup made today (6 January 2020) so all the content has been saved; it’s just not accessible right now.

Older content can be seen at the Internet Archive.

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.