News of the Week: Supermarkets, Stamps, and SPECTRE

Plots to save grocery stores, postal systems, and James Bond in this week’s pop culture roundup.

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A&P Files For Bankruptcy

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

I’ll be honest: I didn’t even know A&P grocery stores were still around. We had one in my hometown that I visited regularly as a kid, but it closed many years ago. There’s a Walgreen’s in that space now. The chain is actually still around in the Northeast, but this week the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A &P) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the second time in five years and have 120 of its 296 supermarkets lined up to sell to other supermarket chains, including Acme Markets, which plans to turn 76 of the stores into Acme stores. A&P tried to find a buyer for the entire company in 2013 but couldn’t find one.

In addition to operating stores under the name A&P, the company also runs Waldbaum’s, Pathmark, Superfresh, Best Cellars, Food Basics, and The Food Emporium locations. I swear that I didn’t even know that Waldbaum’s was a real place. I heard it for years on Everybody Loves Raymond and I thought it was just a made-up name for Wal-Mart, the way TV shows often use a name like FacePlace to stand for Facebook.

The history of A&P is actually quite fascinating. If you’re interested in the history of supermarkets, that is.

New Stamps!

IgorGolovniov / Shutterstock.com
IgorGolovniov / Shutterstock.com

The Atlantic asks, “Can Design Help the USPS Make Stamps Popular Again?” I don’t know if lack of good stamp design is the problem the United States Postal Service is facing (there are many), but new cool stamps certainly can’t hurt.

The new stamps are called Summer Harvest and are produce-themed, with pictures of tomatoes and watermelons and cantaloupes. They look like the colorful labels you’d see on old food crates. Stamp collecting has always been one of those things I wanted to get into but I feel like I missed my chance when I was 10 years old. Sure, it’s never too late to start something but starting to collect something that there is so much of now seems rather overwhelming. But these stamps look beautiful.

Oh, and read the comments on The Atlantic article, where you’ll find people who are absolutely flabbergasted that people still use the USPS. Seriously? Even with email and social media and online bill paying, how can people and businesses not use snail mail?

SPECTRE

The full trailer for the next James Bond film, SPECTRE, was released this week:

Looks great, right? The Bond trailers are always well done and the movies are always entertaining. But a suggestion for the next film: Maybe it doesn’t have to be about some painful incident/secret about Bond’s past? Every single Daniel Craig 007 film has followed the same pattern (something happened in Bond’s past, he goes rogue, he’s out for revenge, is he too old, this time it’s personal, etc.). Maybe this could be the end of this particular storyline and we can get to some standalone movies?

SPECTRE premieres in the U.S. on November 6. I’m in line for it right now.

The Problem with Gawker

Five years ago I wrote this about Gawker: “I think we can all agree that Gawker is a terrible web site run by terrible people who write terrible things.” Things haven’t changed at the gossip site since then. If anything, it has gotten worse, and everything sort of imploded this week.

First they put up a story (ordinarily a link would go here but I don’t want to give them any traffic) about a publishing CEO who may have attempted to hire a gay escort, then when the web and social media and Gawker commenters (when even Gawker commenters shake their heads …) freaked out about the sleazy, pointless post, management and Gawker Media head honcho Nick Denton decided to take it down. This, of course, irritated the editorial staff at the site and two of the top editors quit in a huff. How dare the “business side” interfere with the “editorial side”?! What about journalistic ethics?

First, it’s all business side. This is the way publications have always been. Second, maybe the management wouldn’t have to have gotten involved if the editors didn’t approve the post in the first place. Somebody had to be the grown up, though honestly, everyone is acting as if this was “out of bounds” for Gawker when in reality they’ve been publishing stuff like this for years.

Just before resigning, one of the editors not only rang up a $550 lunch bill at expensive NYC restaurant Balthazar, he posted a picture of the receipt on social media. Because his resignation was all about ethics. *Cough.*

The Last Howard Johnson’s

Howard Johnson's advertisement from the June 27, 1964 issue of the Post.
Howard Johnson’s advertisement from the June 27, 1964 issue of the Post.

A&P isn’t the only American business institution that might be going away. Did you know that there’s only one Howard Johnson’s left? Now, the fact that there actually is one Howard Johnson’s left is the surprise. I’m sure many thought the chain had gone out of business entirely. In the mid-1960s, Howard Johnson’s generated more sales than McDonald’s and Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken combined.

But there’s one orange-roofed restaurant left in the country and it’s in Lake George, New York (there’s another Howard Johnson’s in Bangor, Maine, but it doesn’t have the orange roof and will probably go out of business soon). The New York Times has a feature on the restaurant and CBS Sunday Morning went to the location to interview the owner. Rachael Ray worked there when she was a teen.

Howard Johnson still has a chain of hotels though. It’s part of the Wyndham Hotel Group, which also runs Ramada, Days Inn, and Travelodge.

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

The debut of Bugs Bunny (July 27, 1940)
The wise-cracking rabbit made his official debut in the Warner Bros./Merrie Melodies cartoon A Wild Hare.

Plane crashes into Empire State Building (July 28, 1945)
A B-25 Mitchell bomber got lost in fog and crashed into the 79th floor of the New York City landmark, killing 3 crew members and 11 people inside the building.

14th Amendment adopted (July 28, 1868)
Here’s a complete history of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution from the Library of Congress.

NASA created (July 29, 1958)
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was initially called the National Aeronautics and Space Agency when first proposed.

Premiere of Walt Disney’s Steamboat Willie (July 29, 1928)
The short was the official debut of Mickey Mouse and was directed by Walt Disney, who also provided the voice of Mickey.

President Lyndon Johnson signs Medicare bill (July 30, 1965)
You can read The Saturday Evening Post feature “Medicare: Headache or Cure-All?” from 1967, along with other articles on the American healthcare system.

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Comments

  1. The A&P story on the Wikipedia link is pretty fascinating. Any business that pre-dates the Civil War had to be doing a lot of things right for many years.

    Thanks for the trailer on ‘Spectre’. I used to be a 007 film fan, but not so much anymore. It has nothing to do the series, or Daniel Craig. A high percentage of the elements/ingredients in the Bond films have been done to death in the tens of thousands of brain dead ‘action’ films over the past 25+ years: race against time, acrobatics on top of moving trains, car chases, explosions, male stars flying in the air in slow motion away from the proverbial fireball explosion, the gunfire, glass shattering, more explosions, the ridiculous decibel levels. Provide me with an eye shade, ear plugs, pay me $300 to go, and I’ll make the supreme sacrifice. Otherwise, let me think a minute—NEVER!!

    It was one thing when you had a classy 007 movie come out every couple of years and you only saw these elements in that rare Bond film. It was different, and a thrill. To its credit I still feel the Bond films are of the high quality and class they always have, but have been greatly undermined by the garbage I mentioned. I don’t go to see those—at all of course. Just the briefest glance at a bus stop movie poster, are more than I need to know, with the TV ads and/or on-line trailer always confirming they’re even more unwatchable than I thought, which was already terrible in my mind. These films have ruined the Bond films for me and plenty of other people I know, because in the end, in many ways, they ARE like those films (not their fault) but in a tuxedo.

    So go see the film when it comes out, and enjoy some popcorn for me as well (easy on the butter now).

    Speaking of food, I hope the Howard Johnson’s in upper state New York makes it. The ice cream ad from ’64 is great. I love the links you included, feeling their expansion into the hotel business away from the restaurants really hurt them. That may even be the single largest culprit on a pie chart of reasons they went away.

    This topic is fascinating to me, and will continue following it. Personally (for the West Coast) I’d like to see a Howard Johnson’s RESTAURANT debut in Las Vegas. It needs to be the whole mid-century experience. It might lead to a new cult following, like IN-N-OUT burger, but in a limited-edition form. I wonder if any developers have thought of that?

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