Posts Tagged ‘old Houston grocery chains’

Houston Chain Grocers of Yesterday

February 21, 2014
Typical A&P of the 1950's.

Typical A&P of the 1950’s.

Before we had Kroger and HEB out there in the Houston market – and soon competing with Walmart’s/Sam’s Club, Costco, and Target for leadership in the national chain competition among the big national grocers in the Houston area market, a number of Mom and Pop grocers and olden days chain operations swatted it out in the city for the local breakfast, lunch, supper, and dinner plates as the providers of foods that people actually cooked or prepared at home.

The names of these national and local chain grocers included: Piggily Wiggily, Henke & Pillot, Weingarten’s, A&P Super Market, Minimax, Safeway, Globe, Federated, and Lucky Seven, for sure. What else have I forgotten?

As a former employee of A&P, I know I’ve probably forgotten a number of the others. Please help fill in the blanks with a comment below on who is getting left out. You need to remember (or be made aware) that back in the years after WWII, grocery stores sold groceries only. If you wanted drugs, toys, clothes, or anything else inedible as food, you  had to go search for those items in the specialty shops or department stores that sold everything.

All of our A&P products were labeled “Ann Page” and they each came in a coded date package. One of our shelf stocking instructions at the A&P on Lawndale near 75th was; Never show the customers how to read the code. That information might cause them to pass on products that were near or past “best sell by” dates. If the customers already knew how to read the code, assure them that the “best sell by” date is not  the same as an “expiration date.” What is it then? Just tell the customer that “best sell by” is A&P’s way of keeping the stock moving toward earlier sales. If the customer paused to ask, “then what the heck that does mean?”, try to depart as though you had a clean up to do on a distant aisle.

One of those days in the summer of 1954 that I almost got fired, a woman tapped me on the shoulder to ask: “Young man, where does this store keep their all-day suckers?”

“Well, you’re talking to one of them,” I wise-guy answered with a pitiable smile.”

In spite of the fact  that she laughed and that I right away directed her to the aisle location of the wrapped suckers, my boss was in the next aisle and heard the whole brief exchange. He threatened to fire me if I was ever caught saying another smart-Alec thing to a customer in the future and, as my punishment, he pulled me off shelf stocking at that 3:00 PM time and had me go out in back of the store and spend my last three hours cleaning up the produce delivery crap in and outside the loading docks.

I was 16. The penalty didn’t keep me from being a smart Aleck ever again. But it did teach me to be more careful about who was standing in the next aisle the next time the opportunity for a timely comment arose at work.

Like all matters of long-term good fortune, I finally outgrew my need to be a smart Aleck. I never was aiming to hurt anyone else’s feelings; I simply had a knack for coming up with comments that were sometimes funny, but always inappropriate to the communication exchange at hand.  As many of you may also have discovered in your own life experience over time, I have also now lived long enough to have learned that not all young smart Alecks get that lesson, no matter  how old they grow to be. And the worst of them are those who  really want to cause hurt feelings in others.

At any rate, the subject here today is Houston’s old grocery chains. – Who am I leaving out?