Another Small Town Grocer Gone

Just announced today in the local news, Albertson’s has agreed to buy most of Paul’s Market locations for “rebranding into Albertson’s” and the rest are closing. Gad I loathe shopping at Albertson’s with the burning-hot-blackest-of-hate of a million Gehennas surrounded by lakes of molten sulfur.

Paul’s was awesome, great quality, good pricing, awesome service from the employees. Albertson’s is…

Well, there’s one small town grocer left, they better step up their game though, otherwise I will have to start driving two counties over to shop for everything I don’t want to buy bulk at Costco now.


Here is Las Vegas you basically have two choices: Albertsons stores or Kroger stores. We do have a couple of Winco stores and I try to shop there but it’s 20 minutes away from my house.

I wish to “Bob” I could still shop at Publix but there aren’t any west of the Mississippi.

Albertson’s used to be a good store, waaaaaaaaay back in the day, before old Joe passed away

There was on Albertson’s, for a while, here in Topeka, but it died, losing out I think to the Kroger chain called Dillon’s.

Now, my favorite Dillon’s, the one right on my way home from work and less than a mile from my house, just closed. It was a smaller, neighborhood style store and it leaves a big hole in the central part of town.

It’s been almost forty years since the last of the little family run groceries closed, I loved to shop at Murray’s. Two couplees owned it. Twin brothers had married twin sisters and the store was their career. They even lived in the same big duplex they built.

Sorry for your loss guestchaz, I know how you feel.

We have a decacdes-old family-run chain in my area which seems to be only staying open by the skin of its teeth. They have superior quality but their prices, up until maybe a year or two ago, were always through the roof. They’ve since lowered the prices on a ton of items, but it doesn’t seem to have done anything to their bottom line.

I went into the store closest to me last week to see for myself. Their prices are lower but I wouldn’t consider them a bargain: I’ve seen lower at other stores.

According to the grapevine the chain is closing a number of stores come fall. They did an experiment with opening a smaller-scale store in the city last year. It’s not doing very well, from what I hear.

Eh… Albertsons taketh away, and Albertsons giveth.

They recently (last year or two) divested themselves of the vast majority of their Dallas-Fort Worth stores, selling them to a local grocery chain. So in some sense, we regained a local grocer. (not that I like Minyard’s at all)

Seriously though; the grocery business is VERY low margin, much like restaurants. In practical terms, this means that economies of scale are extremely important - if a store is making a tiny percentage above cost, then anything that lowers that cost either allows them to make more money at the same price, or to lower prices so as to undercut the competition, who presumably can’t afford to drop prices and stay profitable. So you end up the low cost provider, and get all the price-sensitive business.

It’s basic economics; small town and local grocers tend to suffer dramatically versus large chains for this very reason. An example- if say… Bertolli sells Joe’s grocery olive oil at $5 per bottle if they buy X quantity, they may sell Wal-Mart, or Kroger (and its local brands) the exact same olive oil at $3/bottle, because they buy 5x the quantity. This means that if Joe sells that olive oil for $6 a bottle, Kroger can turn around and either sell it for $6, pocketing $3 in revenue, or they can sell it for $4, and make that same $1 that Joe does. Or they can split the difference and sell it for anywhere between $4 and $6 and both undercut Joe AND make more per bottle.

So ultimately what this means is that the only way a local grocer can survive in this day and age of national grocery chains is to differentiate themselves- provide USDA Prime meat, or special produce, or gourmet food, or something along those lines. Competing on price at all, is a losing proposition unless you’re another huge company like them.

The only stores I would consider Mom and Pop here in Kansas City are the ethnic stores catering to say Asians, Arabs, or European niches. But I’ve seen even those are getting hit by large Asian food chain stores or stores like World Market.

I think stores that are convenient – including but not limited to “convenience stores” – are an exception to this. If all you need are a few items, and there is a local grocery store a block or so from you, then it may be cheaper to walk to the nearby store than to drive your car to the ostensibly cheaper place. Of course that’s not the case for weekly shopping.

The closest grocery store to my parents’ house is one in a small, local chain of twelve stores, but they’re affiliated with IGA. And this store is right next to a (smaller) Walmart store. The local store seems to do OK. It might help that this is not one of the giant Walmarts with a full grocery store. They have some stuff in Walmart, but not everything.

Well yeah, but it’s no Safeway.

It could be argued that they’re in different markets- convenience store/bodega vs. supermarket, or it could be argued that being very close and convenient, with higher prices and lower variety is how they differentiate themselves.

Ultimately all business strategies boil down to one of two approaches- either be the lowest price seller/provider, or differentiate yourself in some way, so you can charge the prices you want to charge. The big catch with the lowest price strategy is that you pretty much HAVE to be the lowest price seller, or you’re essentially doing a really lame version of the differentiation strategy.

So in the case of mom and pop stores / local small-town stores, the idea that you’re going to go head-to-head with Kroger on price is ludicrous. They probably negotiate single buys of one single type of one product that are worth more than your entire store. So you need to differentiate yourself. Which may be difficult if your small-town’s customer base is price-sensitive above all else.



Since when is a chain a ‘small town grocer’? When I picture a small town grocer, I picture a mom and pop type place with one lone store in a small town. Once it becomes a chain, it is no longer a small town grocer.

You should totally shop at Winco all the time for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with my retirement livelihood being directly linked to the well-being of their stock. (Also, if Wendy is still the daytime lead at the Henderson store, say hi for me.)

In my neck of the woods, the Albertsons-Safeway merger resulted in the government ordering them to sell off a bunch of locations for antitrust purposes. Those 150-odd locations were bought at auction by Haggen, a regional chain that had about 15 locations and was my go-to for when I needed stuff that my employer doesn’t sell. They subsequently went bankrupt due to a combination of attempting to expand tenfold in less than a year and Albertsons/Safeway possibly sabotaging them with false inventory/pricing data during the transfer, and they’re now selling all of their locations, including the pre-existing ones, at auction… where they may very well be bought back by Albertsons/Safeway for less than what they sold them for.

Ain’t capitalism grand?

Can’t say I’m surprised.

actually, Snowboarder Bo, I kinda got a chuckle out of that news. Safeway has been trying to get into the local area for 40 years or more, always failing, because of Alberstson’s. At first it was loyalty to the brand, but later attempts, I’m not so sure about. The very last time they tried, the abandoned the effort with a store half-built, that remained empty for about 5 years or so while the legalities were worked out. It’s a car dealership now.

Sigh, I can remember when Paul’s Market was Paul’s IGA.

Well, judging by nearly every post in this thread that mentions them, most of us remember when it was Albertson’s.The company dropped the apostrophe in 2002; they’ve been Albertsons for more than 15 years now.

doh! duplicate post

In my town, the Albertsons-Safeway merger actually spawned a pretty neat couple of local supermarkets. One of the terms the FTC set on the merger was that they had to sell their redundant locations instead of just closing them. On much of the west coast where the two chains had previously overlapped, they got bought by a regional chain called Haggen, but in my town the people that run a tiny little local grocery store that mostly sold beer to college kids bought the two Safeway locations and the stores they put there are actually a really nice amalgam of the old local grocery store quirk and big supermarket selection and such. And the beer is way cheaper than it was at the Safeway, huzzah!

How are they doing financially, do you have any idea? When did they start? If a store makes it through the first couple years they generally are okay.