Just before the Civil War in 1859, a fellow named George Gilman opened his first tea and coffee store in New York City. Obviously, a grandiose planner, he named that little store “The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company.” Sounds almost as important as The International House of Pancakes, doesn’t it?
Well, George grew that little business to 70 stores by 1878 when he passed it to George Hartford. 70 stores would be a pretty big deal even today, but Mr. Hartford turned it into the country’s first grocery chain.
By 1900, A&P (its common name) had 200 stores. By 1915, they had 1600 stores and by 1930, A&P was the world’s largest retailer doing 2.9 billion during the Great Depression from 16,000 stores. To put that in perspective, Walmart has less than 4,200 stores today — mind blowing, no?
To review, A&P pioneered the grocery store chain, then they pioneered the supermarket chain. A&P was Walmart before Walmart and they brought a lot of good to the US economy by reducing the cost of distribution and thus reducing the cost of food. They also greatly multiplied the variety of food that was available to US consumers.
That’s all fine and dandy unless you owned one of their little corner grocery competitors that were driven out of business. Who could stand in the path of The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company? There were calls for anti-trust break-up of the corporation. When I started farming, A&P was still the largest grocery retailer. The last of its assets were auctioned first of last year.
Very few people living today can remember the despair on main street A&P caused, I certainly can’t, but most of us remember as recently as 10 years ago a similar attitude towards Walmart. There were several cities that passed anti-Walmart regulations banning the retailer from their city.
You guys are way ahead of where I’m going I’m sure. Many of you have emailed to ask “Hey Uncle Vern, whatcha think about Amazon?” Amazon is either a benefactor or a bully depending on your perspective.
In my world, every so often some inexperienced company with a lot of money comes along and messes things up for all of us for a couple years until their bean counters tell them they lost enough money and need to go back to wherever they came from.
Some have been domestic behemoths like Conagra, and others foreign fat cats like the United Arab Emirates. They mess things up because they think they can apply what they know about grain or oil to peaches and it never works. They drag our industry and the families involved in its production down into unprofitability, and all we can do is hang on ‘til they’re broke and leave.
Amazon has a great model and now efficient distribution centers. But the cattle need to be fed, the peaches need to be pruned, thinned, picked, and packed, and no one in California can do that more efficiently than us, period.
If Amazon or anyone else can bring a value that honestly benefits society, come on. Abundant Harvest Organics has a nice advantage coming straight from the farm, bypassing packaging costs, and being about a week fresher.
We know for sure you subscribers appreciate this and look forward to tending your garden for a long time.