In my previous life as a journalist, I covered the retail industry for a design-oriented magazine. That was where I started reading the WSJ on a regular basis — because of my freak reading speed, part of my job was to read the Journal and NYT every morning for stuff that might make story fodder. Although I never really developed a huge interest in store fixtures and such (I nearly got sacked once when I just couldn’t think of six pages of stuff to say about tables), I did find the histories of great and once-great chains interesting, and it dovetailed nicely with my nostalgia for the stores of my youth.
In that spirit, I was interested in a review in today’s WSJ. The book under discussion is The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America, by Marc Levinson. A point the reviewer hits right away is that the store chain was condemned in its day by those who saw it as driving out small, mom-and-pop stores, not least by undercutting their prices. It seems like it might be an interesting read, both for people with an interest in retail history and for those with an eye for the rise and fall of institutions.