Vons Grocery Company
In 1906, the downtown area of Los Angeles was fundamentally a small town when Charles Von der Ahe opened his little Groceteria on the corner of Seventh and Figueroa Streets using $1,200 in savings. It was a neighborhood store that catered to the needs of local families, where Von der Ahe pioneered cash and carry, replacing the charge and delivery way of thinking. Its expansion and innovation over the next 90 years was legendary, growing to more than 325 stores and 30,000 employees. This book focuses on the legacy of this great company, its visionary leaders, and its dedicated employees who made it the number one grocery retailer in Southern California.
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This book serves as a clinical look at the evolution of Vons Grocery Company. It tends to emphasize the men and women who oversaw the corporate life of the company. However, it fails to paint a holistic portrait of the company and its employees.
I worked at Vons from 1978-1994. I recognize five managers/district managers from their training class photographs in the book. Most of these individuals did not have college degrees; consequently, they were easily manipulated into driving their department heads to meet impossible budgets. The climate within the stores was one of fear. The net result, inevitably, was rampant free-timing. Virtually, all the non-front-end personnel I knew worked off-the-clock to one extent or another. This was all done in the name of corporate profits. I have estimated, just in my last four years at Vons, my off-the-clock hours totaled more than $100,000. I am told that after the federal government cracked down on several chains in the South in the late 1990s, the intense pressure to work off the clock disappeared; apparently Vons is a different company in the present, although I do not have any firsthand knowledge of that either way.
Despite the somewhat Pollyannish look at the company, the included photographs are interesting and the book provides a good overview of how Vons changed throughout the decades. As the subject itself is definitely niche, this is likely to be the only book written on the subject; thus, if you happen to find yourself fascinated by the corporate life and personalities of Vons Grocery Company, this is the work for you.