Archive ID: 1982-132-16

Milano’s Grocery Store

Date Created: circa 1930

Donor: Mary Bulanda

Media Type: Photograph


Milano’s Grocery Store was located at 9550 Avenue N on the East Side. Pictured are Santa Milano (on the right), her son-in-law, John Zappa, and her son, Albert “Bert” Milano. This store was typical of the many “Mom and Pop” grocery stores in Southeast Side neighborhoods. Many changes have occurred regarding where and how customers shop for food. There was a transition from bulk goods in which the local grocer measured from large bins, barrels, or containers and wrapped to order to, in later years, packaged goods, brand names, and mass marketing. In the days before national chains and big box grocery stores, residents shopped at local stores in walking distance of their homes. People had to shop more frequently before refrigeration became common. These “Mom and Pop” groceries were sprinkled throughout local neighborhoods. Customers could “put it on the tab” and then settle their bill on payday day with owners who lived in an upstairs apartment or “in the back.” Choices were limited, but most necessities were available at a fair price from someone who usually knew their customers personally. In addition, many “Mom and Pop” grocery owners shared ethnic ties and spoke the same language as their customers. For example, many Italian immigrants, like the Milanos, lived in this area of the East Side during the 1930s. Food stores in Southeast Chicago have since changed over time. The first indication were the chain stores like National Tea, A & P, Kroger, and Jewel. They bought in bulk, sold high volume, and could afford newspaper space for ads. They also produced store brands at lower cost than name brands. They were followed by alliances of independent grocers like Certified, Centrella, or IGA. Improvements in refrigeration reduced the need for more frequent shopping trips to avoid spoilage. The automobile, which made it easier to get to the larger stores which offered more variety and cheaper prices, also contributed to the demise of the “Mom and Pop” stores.

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Buildings/Landmarks   Community Life   Immigrant Experiences   Small Businesses   Stores   1920-1939 (Depression Era)   East Side   European Descent   Photograph   1982-132   Businesses   Cans   Children   Families   Food   Grocery stores   Italian   Suits   Workers