Grocery store geography
I’ve been poking around grocery store locations, courtesy of AggData, the past few days.
There’s a grocery store just about everywhere you go in the United States, because, well, we gotta eat. They look similar in that they sell produce on one side, meat in the back, and snacks and soda on the side opposite the produce. Magazines and small candies are carefully situated at eye-level by the cash registers. There’s usually a deli counter and prepared foods near the bread section. And yet, despite the generic format and layout, these stores can remind us of places and specific periods of our lives.
When I was a kid, I’d go to Save Mart and you’d get hit with the aroma of cupcakes and fresh bread from the bakery right at the entrance. They had cake samples at the counter, which was too high for me to reach, so my mom would grab me a piece. I totally get the “like a fat kid loves cake” line.
In college, I went to Safeway, and they had this magical barrier around the parking lot that prevented carts from rolling away and to deter people from stealing them. There always seemed to be homeless guy grasping a bottle held in a paper bag. It was probably milk. Two 12-packs of soda for five bucks? Yes, please.
When I was in Buffalo, I went to Wegmans. Somehow it was busy almost any time I went but the lines were almost always short. They had good, inexpensive grapefruit juice.
Then there’s the Targets and Walmarts, which are ubiquitous and seem to remind you of everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
It’s fun to poke around at these memories. What do your grocery stores remind you of?
The maps above show grocery stores with at least two hundred locations in the United States. I used a dissimilarity index and k-means for categorization, which popped out geographic distributions more or less. More to come.
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