Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona, just for fun. Advertising-free, supported by my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

Why little neighborhood stores are more expensive


As some who has lived in some really awful neighborhoods in my younger days, I know that food at neighborhood markets is the most expensive way you can buy it. If you've never lived in a neighborhood that's, uh, "less than fashionable", it may come as a shock to you that those little neighborhood market's prices are much higher than, for example a large chain retailer, whose name I won't mention here, but rhymes with "almart"

I've been lucky. My career and my income grew, and I was able to move into a nice suburban neighborhood, where everything is designed for the convenience of people with cars. And even in my "less than fashionable" years, I had a car, and was able mostly to drive away from the neighborhood to a grocery store, or a discount store, or well, anywhere. People in the neighborhoods who weren't as mobile as me didn't have that many choices.

When I lived in Canoga Park, a "less than fashionable" neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, sometimes I would walk. Every day I walked to the "mom and pop" place two blocks away from me and I bought a Coke. I liked walking, and I knew that the price that I was paying was much more than if I went to a grocery store, or a discount store, but at the time I was interested in learning more about how the "less than fashionable" people lived. I would glance at other things for sale, and note the inflated cost of a gallon of milk, that sort of thing.

Now waitaminute, before you jump to conclusions that I'm accusing these tiny business of intentionally gouging poor people, consider their situation. I would see these people working very hard, for long hours, usually with just family members. Whatever their profit margin was, it wasn't big enough to waste things, and sometimes the food would just sit on the shelves for a long time until it was sold. When there's only one Snickers bar for someone who is walking to the store, they can't be fussy about expiration dates, stuff like that.

Like I say, I've been lucky. I've lived a comfortable suburban life since my early thirties. But my experience in "less than fashionable" neighborhoods has allowed me to realize when I'm talking to someone who's never seen it. Because it's not pretty, and I gotta tell you, the people who can afford it the least have to pay the most.

Image at the top of this post: At my apartment in Canoga Park, California in the 1980s. I'm smiling because I knew that someday I'd be able to get out of there.