Shopping at Giant Foods
Chinese American Supermarkets in Northern California
Publication Year: 2003
Published by: University of Washington Press
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Writing about what one knows best helps to make an interesting and engaging topic. For over twenty years I was solidly involved in the Chinese American grocery and supermarket business. After graduating from college with a bachelor of science degree in 1973, I went to work for a...
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This endeavor has had its share of intellectual and emotional vicissitudes. At times I felt overwhelmed and discouraged, but many friends and colleagues encouraged and prodded me along. I must thank Steven Avella, Bing Fun Cheng, Sandra Chim, Rosemary Flemmer, Kenneth Luk,...
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Emerging during the 1930s and securing a competitive market share for about the next four decades, Chinese American supermarkets were prominent operations in small, medium, and large cities throughout Northern California. Until recently, they were so well established that there were very...
1 / Supermarkets
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Supermarkets are so prosaic and ubiquitous that historians have largely ignored them as institutions worthy of study. This is a serious oversight, because supermarkets are barometers of the local communities in which they do business. Supermarkets reflect their communities’ status, developing...
2 / Community, Employment, and Enterprise
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Chinese Americans in sacramento and other Northern California communities lived fairly quiet lives from the 1930s to the mid-1960s. Their population increased slowly because of disproportionate gender ratios and restrictive immigration laws, and then rose quickly in the years following...
3 / Beginnings
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The beginnings of such Chinese American supermarkets were modest. None of the founders had specific plans, let alone grand goals, in mind. They were just trying to make as much money as possible with the opportunities and resources available to them. The early success of Chinese...
4 / Golden Times [Includes Image Plates]
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From the end of World War II to the early 1970s, a period of proliferation and prosperity for Chinese American supermarkets took place. Business was simply great. These were the “golden times” for the operators. Their supermarkets reigned supreme in markets throughout Northern...
5 / Decline and Passing
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The decline and passing of Chinese American supermarkets did not come without foreboding signs. Some operators were astute, saw the portentous “handwriting on the wall,” and got out of the business while they could still profit favorably from selling their supermarkets. Some were...
6 / Employees and Salesmen
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Employees were the sustenance and scorn of employers in Chinese American supermarkets. Employers needed and used the low-cost labor of Chinese American employees to make good profits, but they later regarded the rising cost of employee labor as one of the chief causes of their...
7 / Chinese Management and Labor Unions
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The operation of Chinese American grocery stores and supermarkets was in many ways different from and yet similar to that of their competitors. Management of personnel was definitely different, which often invoked reproaches from competitors and labor unions. But to the employers...
8 / Stop-N-Shop
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Local chains and independent companies dominated the supermarket business in Sacramento and other Northern California communities until the mid-1970s. National chain supermarkets like Safeway and Lucky had difficulty securing a strong presence in Sacramento, which yielded...
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By the early 1980s, the prominence of Chinese American supermarkets and supermarket chains in Northern California had effectively ended. The national chain companies and a large local chain company, Raley’s, garnered the largest share of the market and continued to expand with their...
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All of the local supermarket chains in this study have gone out of business or have different ownership, except for Raley’s, which continues to expand and prosper, opening new stores and acquiring other chains. At the end of 2001, the company had sales of $3 billion and about 17,000 employees at 148 stores:...
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Publication Year: 2003