LOCAL HISTORY: Ypsilanti's first supermarket
In Ypsilanti, one supermarket arose much earlier, and for a different reason.
The paper continued, “In announcing the store opening, James A. O’Donnell, vice president in charge of the company’s Detroit unit, said the new red and buff colored brick structure is the ‘most modern food establishment in the country which features more and larger “stores within stores” than any other retail outlet’.”
“The store replaced A & P’s first super market in its Detroit unit, which was opened three blocks west at 23 Michigan Ave. in February, 1937.” This was one of the four small “economy” stores. The use of the word “super” is debatable, since the parking lot had spaces for only 14 cars.The new store’s lot boasted an 80-car parking lot and the novelty of fluorescent lighting. Six checkout lanes served customers.
In comparison to the old store, the new one had “30 feet of meat and fish cases, 20 feet more than the other store; 36 feet of dairy boxes and cases, while the old store had only a 10-foot-long wall box. . . and a 65-foot tile-covered fruit and produce rack equipped with the latest slanting back-mirror.” In addition, the chain’s economies of scale allowed it to underprice local grocers, another appealing factor for rationed wartime budgets. A & P executives from Detroit, New York, and Chicago attended the grand opening. As a first step towards Washtenaw County’s modern big-box food stores, Ypsilanti’s sparkling new A & P offered an appealing way to save scant wartime money and transportation resources.
For a different perspective on Ypsilanti grocers, check out "The Sadness in a Depression-Era Grocery Receipt."
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