by Stephanie Didek
This photograph is a part of one family's experience working in Youngstown, Ohio. It is used as a representation of common experiences in this area and areas similar to this one. Taken in July of 1960, this may seem like a picture of the kind of grocery store that typically appeared on the corners of working class neighborhood streets.
However, this was more than just another store to the owners, my grandparents. From when they first bought it in 1959 until they sold it seven years later, this was an additional source of income, besides the wage at Republic Steel, that the family took in. This building signified ownership and being the boss, instead of slavery and working for the boss. A store such as this was commonly found at the end of a street where people lived because it was very convenient--for the customers and the owner.
Such was the case here, too. This grocery store was at the end of my grandparents' street, Zedaker. Women relied on this store to ease the burden of shopping, especially if they had little or no transportation and had children at home to watch. It was easy for my grandparents to work there, since they lived right up the street and were able to keep an eye on their house and children, also. Nobody had to travel very far. Families were earning more money than they had in the past and could afford to spend more money on goods and services. One thing was a fact--everybody needed a grocery store to buy food and supplies. To have it owned by your neighbor, whom you had gotten to be friends with, was certainly a plus.
Looking at this picture, it's as though we are standing on the walkway facing the storefront and one of the owners, my grandfather. Apparent is that look of pride on his face as he welcomingly stands by the doors of the store. It is almost as though we are a customer, on our way in to see what they have to offer us. If we were provided with an expanded view of this area, we would see the houses of all of the neighbors, as well as the owners' house. Other people would be coming toward the store from the streets boardering the sides of the building--Zedaker St. and Indianola Ave.
If our view shrunk down, we might be able to see inside the doors. We would be looking at the groceries; the meat counter where my father would even work, chopping meat; school supplies; other supplies; and other shoppers as well. Dominant in this image is the big sign suspended above the doorway, that bears the owners' last name (my last name) and some of the products sold in the store. The impression received is one of success and a movement upward in class. The figure of my grandfather is smaller in relation to his big responsibility that stands behind him.
The individual who took the photograph is closely connected to the store. They created this representation so that they, and our family, would always have a reminder of the accomplishment made by owning their own business. A photograph was the way to pass this store on to their family members or to friends, without still owning it. A grocery store was the perfect business for my grandparents to get into. They had prior knowledge of what it was like to run a store, since my grandmother worked in many of them herself when she was growing up (including this particular store when it's previous owner had it). They knew most of their customers pretty well and wanted to provide them with the finest quality products.
With all of the big supermarket chains that have popped up all around us, people today are missing out on the friendly little neighborhood stores of the past. Would a store of today let you come in and get groceries just on your word that, when you had more money, you would come back and pay for them? The answer to this is most certainly NO. It really is a shame that this building no longer stands.
Webpage by: Stephanie Didek
Labor Studies 740
Youngstown State University