Saturday, January 15, 2005

Retail Grocers

I have been fascinated with retail grocery stores since I was a young girl. Growing up on the southern coast of California afforded us plenty of fresh vegetables and great seafood.

The first grocer I remember was the Red & White Market in Oceanside. It was a small neighborhood market. Red & White served the local community well. If there was something special you wanted, you just had to ask, the proprietor would do his best to obtain whatever it was you requested. The corner market was a favorite of mine. Penny candy galore for the kids coming to and from school. And when I say penny candy, it was just that. Kits, BB Bats, Root Beer barrels, Double Bubble (that was always purchased after school) and a myriad of other favorites. It was easy to run to the store for mom, grab an extra something for dinner and say "hi" to friends in the neighborhood. After school it was always great too because my brother and I would go buy some caps, you know the kind for in cap guns, we'd buy a roll and have fun. We didn't have a cap gun but found that a good flat rock would work just as well. I can still smell the smoke and hear the tiny explosion! But I digress.

Then something strange happened. I remember I was in the fourth grade. A whole city block was excavated and paved over. There was something new coming to town. It was going to make life better for everyone. Convenience! A 40000 square foot GIANT. It was at the corner of University and Texas Street, in San Diego. We all lined up in awe at the opening. Wow! So many things in one place! You could buy any cut of meat you wanted, all types of vegetables, and then there was the frozen isle. Not just ice cream, but almost anything a wholesaler could think to freeze was there, vegetables, dinners, meats. There was bottled water! Soda pop! In return bottles! Soap and cleaning products. When you finished there were big paper bags to put it all in to take home, no more carboard boxes. They even had guys that would take it to your car and load up the groceries. It was a modern marvel. Soon these big GIANTs dotted the landscape from San Diego to Redondo Beach (that was my world back then).

But something happened. Our friend who ran the little market around the corner started talking about closing his store. He had done all he could to stay in business. Ran specials, still went the extra mile for you in obtaining those special items you requested, but it was no longer enough. When the GIANT down the street could sell you four grapefuits for a dollar, the small corner market knew his days were numbered. Oh yes he still had penny candy and soda, and ice cream. He still had a big grin and a friendly hello when you came by but he didn't have his customers. Fewer and fewer of us were going by on a regular basis any longer. Soon, he sold out, not being able to compete. We had helped the GIANT put him out of business. Ugh!

No sooner than our friend had closed his doors we began to see suttle changes in this GIANT. The GIANT still had everything you thought you needed. However that special cut of meat you'd always been able to order from the corner market, didn't sell well in the GIANT and they didn't carry it and wouldn't order it just for you. That made things difficult. We couldn't fight, we had to accept that certain things wouldn't be available any longer. We learned to conform to what the retailer had decided we wanted and needed. All was well, progress, you see, had been made.

Stay tuned for more of the story of the retail grocer...