Updates coming fast and free (literally) and as always you can see them more quickly via Twitter:

Major updates:

New pages:

 

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.

 

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):

 

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.

I also hope to do more super-targeted blog posts like the ones I’ve done recently on the history of A&P and Kroger in Greensboro and maybe on interesting aspects of defunct chains, etc.

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…

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:

Of course, you could know about these much earlier via Twitter and you could also see road photos, like the ones from my recent trip to Ontario. Much more to come. Here’s what’s in the queue.

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…

Update (30 October 2018): This was delayed. I may work on it this weekend.

Just a quick alert that I will be upgrading the site and message board to SSL this weekend. In a perfect world, the only difference users will see is that addresses will now start with “https” rather than “http” and that you will no longer see the “not secure” warning that some browsers how display. Security is not really an issue here anyway, because users do not submit any sensitive information to the site, but this is something of a new web standard, so I will be implementing it on all my sites anyway.

There is always the chance that there may be glitches somewhere along the way, particularly if you access the site via “groceteria.net” or “groceteria,ca” rather that “groceteria.com.” Let me know if you run into any problems.

Latest additions (more or less chronologically):

Lots of new additions, including the research I did during my recent trip to Atlantic Canada:

Look for photos and some additional info on these soon.

And back in the USA, a set of new additions, mostly thanks to Andrew Turnbull:

Moving toward the goal, there are now 37 of the 50 US states represented on the map, as well as 8 of the 10 Canadian provinces (but none of the territories).

Update: All is well with the message board.

A PHP update at my web host is causing problems with the message board. You can still read posts; there will just be some annoying code at the top of some pages. I’m traveling and have neither the time nor the inclination to work on it till I get home this weekend. Sorry for any inconvenience.