POSTED May 28, 11:20 AM
UPDATE: Edited to add missing text from botched cut and paste from Microsoft Word
Monumental events like World War II or 9/11 affect all of us. However, small "h" history can affect us more closely than the big "H" historical events do. Quite often, the routines of our daily lives reflect these phenomena and we are mostly oblivious to it. One of these routines is grocery shopping.
Whether we know it or not, when we push the shopping cart into the grocery store we are stepping into small "h" history. The store has probably changed names and ownership several times. Older residents could probably tell you, "I remember when Giant was Grand Union or when Super Fresh used to be A&P."
Aside: Is it a shopping cart or a buggy? My southern friends ardently call it a buggy. However, I maintain that the proper term is “cart,” a buggy has a horse attached to it. Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves.
Baltimore has a unique family history when it comes to grocery stores.
Paul and Sonia Diamond immigrated to the United States after World War II. They were a Jewish family from the Polish/Ukrainian frontier, smack dab in the middle of the German advance into Eastern Europe. The Nazis murdered most of their family. Arriving in America with just $10 and the clothes on their backs, the Diamonds looked to build a better life in Baltimore.
Paul worked for a relative and learned English at night school, while Sonia worked in a factory. They opened their first grocery store in 1947 at 174 West Cross St. just blocks from where M&T Bank stadium is now located. In 1950, they sold the store on Cross St. and opened Diamond Market on Harlem Ave. and Mount St.
Together with family, Paul purchased a self-service grocery store in Druid Hill in 1957. In 1960, they opened a full-size grocery store and dubbed it Food-a-rama. By 1970, the family owned and operated five supermarkets throughout Baltimore, an added 15 more locations by 1979. In the early 1980s, the Food-a-rama was second only to Giant in the Baltimore grocery store market. Food-a-rama eventually grew to 48 stores.
99 cents for milk!
Conscious of his own roots and success in this country, Paul Diamond offered jobs to other European immigrants, helped them to learn English and acclimate to America.
After buying locations from the old Grand Union and Basics chains, Food-a-rama sold their 48 stores to their chief supplier Super Rite Foods in 1985. Richfoods bought Super Rite in 1995, which Shoppers Food Warehouse then acquired in 1998.
The next time you walk into a grocery store it may very well have been owned by the Diamonds and you will literally step into history.
Mark Newgent is a writer and editor with a talent for breathing history into everyday happenings.