Synopses & Reviews
One of The Wall Street Journal's Best Non fiction Books of 2011.
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 sixteen thousand 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 fathers 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.
"The rise of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company is a riveting business story, but it turns out the tale of its decline is equally mesmerizing. Levinson (The Box) brings the rise and fall of the A&P to life in spellbinding prose, tracing its growth from its modest beginnings in the late 19th century as a New York City based tea company to a small grocery store chain and eventually, in the 1940s, the largest retailer in the world. Formed by George Huntington Hartford and led later by his sons, George and John Hartford, two equally fascinating but very different brothers, the company continually embraced the concept of 'creative destruction,' innovating, reinventing, and rebranding itself, redefining how Americans shopped for food and ate for more than a century. While the Hartfords were committed to providing value to the consumer through low cost goods, the explosive growth of this business threatened the Mom and Pop small business culture in America; over the course of several decades, these small town grocers fought back against the original 'big box' store, eventually taking the Hartford brothers and the giant retailer to federal court, pressing criminal charges for undercutting merchants who lacked their purchasing power. Set against the backdrop of America's rapidly changing business environment over the past century, Levinson skillfully weaves multiple narratives into a fascinating tale that provides a wealth of lessons for any reader interested in American history, economics, politics, or family business dynamics. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Marc Levinson has a gift for discovering business history stories that cut to the heart of how industries are transformed. He did so brilliantly with The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger, which was short-listed for the 2006 Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.