From modest beginnings as a tea shop, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company became the largest retailer in the world. It was a juggernaut, with nearly 16,000 stores. But its explosive growth made it a mortal threat to mom-and-pop grocery stores across the nation. Main Street fought back tooth and nail, leading the Hoover, Roosevelt, and Truman administrations to investigate the Great A&P. In a remarkable court case, the government pressed criminal charges against the company for selling food too cheaply – and won.
In The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America, the acclaimed historian Marc Levinson tells the story of a struggle between small business and big business that tore America apart. George and John Hartford took over their father’s business and reshaped it again and again, turning it into a vertically integrated behemoth that paved the way for every big-box retailer to come. George demanded a rock-solid balance sheet; John was the marketer-entrepreneur who led A&P through seven decades of rapid changes. Together, they set the stage for the modern consumer economy by turning an archaic retail industry into a highly efficient system for distributing food at low cost.