Thursday, December 17, 2009

First Supermarket, December 17, 1927

At 43rd and Western, Isadore M. Hattem built a store so grand we needed to coin a new word to describe it: Supermarket. These pictures show the grand opening. The store featured a fountain out front and a deli, cigar counter, flower mart, and coffee shop inside, with lavish offices on the second floor. Cost to build? $30,000. And it was open day and night!

Walter Roland Hagedohm was the architect, and he also built Hattem's Shopping Center on Vermont and 80th Street about four years later. In between, he designed the Balboa Inn of Newport Beach, which became a trendy getaway of Hollywood movie stars in the 1930s.

Look at those cans! No one stacks cans like that anymore!

Isadore M. Hattem (originally spelled Hatem, but he changed it during the WWI years) was a Sephardic Jew and founding member of what is now the Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel. Before opening his supermarket, Hattem was one of the early merchants in the Grand Central Market, which opened in 1917.

Back in those days, apparently, customers asked for merchandise at a counter, and it was the clerk's job to fetch items and put the order together. Around the time that Grand Central Market opened, though, self-service markets were becoming popular. Self-service simply meant that the customer strolled along aisles and picked up items, instead of sending a store clerk off to get things. Piggly-Wiggly in Tennessee was the first self-service market, but the trend spread west.

Wikipedia cites the Smithsonian as saying that King Kullen Markets, started in 1930 in New York, was the first supermarket. Hah! Dumb ol' Smithsonian! Hattem's Market beat King Kullen by three years!

What made a store a supermarket? As near as I can tell, it was the concept of selling canned goods, produce, and meat in the same shop. Before the supermarket, meat was something you bought from a butcher.

The Los Angeles Library has lots more pictures of the Hattem grand opening--close-ups of the produce section, the bakery department, the deli, the floral displays...and allowing for black and white and old signage, most of the pictures look pretty much like what you see when you walk into a store today. The cigar counter was rather unique, though. Like today's cigarette displays, most of the merchandise was behind locked glass display cases. I think that's the cigar counter in the lower right.


Anonymous said...

FYI the supermarket concept was devised by Clarence Saunders in 1916 with the Piggly Wiggly chain.

Michael Hattem said...

Yes, Clarence Saunders Piggly Wiggly self-service stores had no clerks to fetch groceries for customers in 1916. Instead shoppers selected from items placed on shelves within easy reach.

However, I.M.Hattem had the first "Supermarket", the key difference being, the groceries, meat, produce, and bakery departments were all self service and wrung up at a central check out. He also had trading stamps, and the market had a parking lot for cars, shopping carts and it was open 24 hours a day.

Vickey Kall said...

Thank you both for stopping by.
Hattem isn't the most common name, so I'm going to assume that Michael is a son/grandson/nephew of the founder of the supermarket. I really appreciate the info you presented!

Michael Hattem said...

I.M. Hattem was my grandfather.

Ashley said...

Hi Michael,
My name is Ashley and I'm a student doing a research project for an exhibt at the Autry museum regarding Jewish supermarkets in Los Angeles. We are gathering pictures from your grandfather's market and are looking for oral stories and possibly artifacts. Would you be interested in helping us? If so can I reach you through email? Thanks :)