How The A&P Changed The Way We Shop

Book: The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America

Story on NPR about book: How The A&P Changed The Way We Shop

Excerpt from NPR piece: "You'd ask for a certain weight of cheese, you'd ask for vinegar," says economic historian Marc Levinson. "The vinegar was not bottled; it was in a barrel and the shopkeeper would pump it out into a small jar for you. If you wanted some pickles, they'd be in a barrel, too. A lot of things would be in bulk, and the shopkeeper was responsible for giving you the quantity you wanted — or the quantity he'd feel like giving you. Because every store had a scale and the scale might or might not be accurate."

In a new book, Levinson explains how local mom-and-pop stores — with their limited selections, high prices and nonstandard packaging — paved the way for national chains like the A&P to swoop in and dominate the grocery industry. His book The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America chronicles the rise (and fall) of the discount grocery chain that was once one of the largest businesses in America. Levinson tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies that it was no coincidence that a national chain replaced the corner store.

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