Remember how I was telling you a few days ago that I’d gotten my hands on a 1933 Ypsilanti phone book? Well, here’s a little something that I thought you might find of interest. Back in ’33, there were roughly four times as many grocery stores in Ypsilanti as restaurants. Granted, the shops in question were likely all very small, but, even so, the thought that our city, which only had a little over 10,000 residents at the time, could have kept 23 grocery stores in business, is kind of astounding. Here, for those of you who are interested, is the list. [It’s worth noting that this list doesn’t include either butcher shops or dairies.]
Now, in comparison, check out the list of restaurants that Ypsilanti had at the time.
So, what do you make of the fact that grocery stores once outnumbered restaurants by about four to one Ypsilanti? I suspect that, to a large extent, it can be explained by changes in the workforce, the growing desire for immediate gratification, and the ready availability of credit, but I’m sure there are other drivers as well. Regardless of how it came to pass, I find it absolutely fascinating. And I can’t help but wonder if the pendulum might ever swing back the other way, with more people cooking at home than going out. But, of course, a lot of that was built on an system in which a majority of families could be supported by a single income, leaving a second adult free to visit multiple stores, prepare home cooked meals, etc. And I don’t know if we’ll ever go back to that. One wonders, however, what things will look like in another 84 years. Will grocery stores exist at all? Will restaurants, as we know them today, even exist? Will there be something new altogether? Where do you see all of this headed? I’m envisioning a network of nutrient sludge distribution kiosks. but, then again, I think we’ll all be living underground by then.