Yesterday’s Food And Retail by Grady Ellis (Editorial)
Yesterday’s Food and Retail by Carrollton resident Grady Ellis is an editorial series brought to you by The City Menus, LLC. The following piece is unedited and in its original state. In no way does it reflect the views or opinions of The City Menus, LLC or its additional contributors.
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When one thinks of A&P, the sweet smell of Eight O Clock Coffee rings in the air. The names Jane Parker, Ann Page; these names could be found in kitchens throughout America. A&P was an innovator when it came to groceries and for a long time a mainstay in Carrollton. Now we look at a legacy that is truly astonishing and their impact on our wonderful town.
The year was 1859, and before the Civil War took place in our nation. A man named George Gilham founded what would become known as The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company in New York City. He specialized in coffee, tea, retail, and also operated a mail order business. The company we know as A&P began a run that would end up helping them become the top retailer of any type of store in the United States until the mid 20th century. In 1878, Gilham passed management to George Huntington Hartford, who would make A&P America’s first grocery chain. It grew like wildfire. In 1900, the chain had almost 200 stores. In 1912, Hartford had become the owner of the company, and introduced the economy store concept that would play a huge part in the explosive growth about to take place. They were known as innovators due to their manufacturing of house brands as mentioned earlier, and a vast array of products for a low price. Rival chains like Kroger would follow suit.
As WWI came and passed, A&P was still growing, and adapting to the changes going on with the grocery stores. Taking notes, and also following suit. By 1925, they had 13, 961 locations. By 1930, A&P had 16,000 stores, the largest retailer in the United States. They were larger than Sears, and four times that of rival Kroger. In this time, A&P would make their debut in Carrollton in Adamson Square; in the building presently occupied by Design Associates.
By the 1950s, A&P had locations from coast to coast; and also had expanded into Canada. They quickly became one of the main players in Carrollton when it came to going to town to buy groceries. Although the chain had reached its peak in this time, they served their purpose in Carrollton; and excelled. They built a new location down the road at Newnan Road and North White Street, the present day home of the Wash Bowl. Although through many areas of the United States, A&P had trouble adapting to the changing trends and styles of its rivals, and also another issue was the smaller stores. In the 1960s, A&P would move to its last location in Carrollton, on Maple Street. Although still a top name in the Grocery business, it had reached its peak, and the slow decline of the American icon had begun.
In the 1960s, the biggest names in Carrollton when it came to grocery shopping were Colonial, that’d become Big Star, Jitney Jungle, Kroger, and A&P. In the late 1960s, two new rivals arrived by the names of Big Apple, later Food Giant, and Winn Dixie. A&P had a strong presence in town. As the company had begun to decline, and retreat from regions of the country, they still held their own in Carrollton. After Jitney Jungle’s closure, A&P until its closure was Maple Street’s lone grocery store.
In 1979, A&P expanded their store, and renovated as it attempted to keep up with its competitors, that had caught them, and as they evolved; A&P was in retreat mode. Leaving more metros throughout the country, they still had a hold on the Southeast. However, as the 1980s came and passed; A&P had fallen behind its rivals in town. Kroger had opened their store at Carrollton Crossroads in 1987, the first grocery store in town to also have a Pharmacy inside, and the café. New chains arrived, that affected A&P throughout the Southeast. They remained in our area still, and although they still tried to keep up. The fall had arrived, and sadly, too late.
In the early 1990s, A&P would leave Carrollton, closing a very long chapter for them in our area. A&P remained scattered throughout the South, and stayed in the Atlanta area in 2000. Retreating to the Northeast, and a few other strongholds they still had. As the 21st Century arrived, A&P was a shell of what was once America’s largest retailer. With competition growing and the rising emergence of Walmart into the grocery business; A&P’s days were numbered. The chain continued to weaken and by 2015, what was once the top Grocery Store and Retailer in the United States were down to 296 locations, a far cry from their peak. On November 30, 2015, The Great Atlantic & Pacific closed their doors for the last time, the end of a 158 year legacy.
A&P is still remembered by many. Its private brands could be found in nearly every home over the years. The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company left a legacy that will go down in the future as folklore. Their influence is still felt today, and most of all; they wonderfully served our town for a long time, and were a true American success that helped create the Grocery stores we know and love today.