I was looking through Sigurd Johnsen’s recipe box this afternoon and ran across a clipping from the Los Angeles Times dated Monday, December 27, 1971. On the old browned newsprint was a picture and recipe for a dessert called Parisian Egg Nog Wreath, a rather glamorous cream puff. Although the recipe and accompanying article were somewhat intriguing, what really caught my eye was on the other side of the clipping. It was half of an ad for a grocery store in the Los Angeles area called The Boys Market. Having spent my entire career in the grocery industry, I was surprised that I was not familiar with The Boys Markets, but that does not really matter. What matters is what has changed over the last 45 years in the grocery industry. If you look at any of the pricing on the December 1971 ad, and if you do any shopping now, there is a whopping difference in retail pricing.
When I started working, it was for Lucky Stores in Northern California. Lucky #59 was located on Bascom Avenue in San Jose and the parking lot was located on Bascom Avenue in Santa Clara. An older store had burned to the ground, because neither fire department thought they had jurisdiction, as the story goes. Back then, you bought your groceries at the grocery store. Now you can buy groceries almost anywhere. Back then you had to do a little planning ahead because the stores didn’t open until 9:00 AM and closed at 9:00 PM. 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM on the weekends. The stores were all closed on holidays. If it wasn’t in your pantry the night before Thanksgiving Day, it wouldn’t be on the table for Thanksgiving dinner. Now we are amazed if the store is not open 24/7.
Lucky Stores, with me in tow, was the parent company for Gemco, which due to a hostile takeover bid was absorbed into Target. Lucky was bought by American Stores, but the name remained. Later on, Albertsons bought Lucky and did their darnedest to obliterate the Lucky name from the planet. Finally Save Mart Supermarkets bought the Albertsons stores in Northern California, retaining the rights to the Lucky name, and Lucky Stores came back to life in the San Francisco Bay area once again. As we speak, a number of the Save Mart stores are being converted over to the Lucky name.
I was a grocery clerk. I was a store manager. I was a buyer. I was a category manager. I was a district supervisor. My life has always been tied, hand in hand, with food and with the people that make the grocery industry work. Looking back on my career, I can truly say I have been Lucky.