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Book Nook: The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America, by Marc Levinson


Long before there was a WalMart and many of the other discount store chains that we know today there was the A&P chain of grocery stores. Marc Levinson initially approached this writing project with the intention of writing a biography about the two brothers, George and John Hartford, who guided the A&P through many decades and changes. When Levinson began his research he quickly changed course after he realized that George, the older brother, had led such a secretive life that he wasn't a substantial enough subject for a biography.

The author shifted his focus to the astonishing history of the A&P store chain. 100 years ago in 1912 the Hartfords implemented what became a seismic shift in retailing. They began opening what they called Economy stores. By 1929 the A&P's expansive presence and aggressive discounting had made them such a dominant force that they became the first company to ever rack up a billion dollars in annual sales.

By then chain stores like the A&P had become political targets. By the 1940's the Hartford brothers were found to be guilty of criminal anti-trust activity. Their crime? Low prices. Too low. This government action ultimately led to the decline and eventual demise of that entire store chain.

Levinson tells a fascinating tale here. And on a side note; in this interview the author recalls his time at Antioch College back in the 1970's when he used to read the news on an eclectic little radio station known as WYSO.

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Vick Mickunas introduced the Book Nook author interview program for WYSO in 1994. Over the years he has produced more than 1500 interviews with writers, musicians, poets, politicians, and celebrities. Listen to the Book Nook with Vick Mickunas for intimate conversations about books with the writers who create them. Vick Mickunas reviews books for the Dayton Daily News and the Springfield News Sun.