The Innovative Drive-In Supermarket You've Never Heard About

Grocery stores of various sizes and types are a lot older than the automobile, as the basic concept of exchanging currency for food goes back a long way. The supermarket and cars share a common thread of both becoming enormously popular in the 20th century, though. In the early years of that century, one store combined those trends to great success.

Innovation can help set businesses like supermarkets apart from their competition and ensure their longevity even now in the 21st century. For example, modern supermarkets are using new packaging to prevent shoplifting. Also, according to Supermarket News, supermarkets are embracing home delivery across the board. The founder of a supermarket chain that welcomed motorists brought multiple innovations to the grocery game almost a century ago.

This market was among the first to realize that convenience was a commodity that consumers would happily hand over their cash for. According to KCET, the rise of the automobile in California played a big role in this story.

The very first 'Go Grocer'

When most people think of the term "drive-in," images of a 50s diner or a movie theater come to mind. In the early 1920s, however, one adapter of the supermarket concept put its own twist on the theme. KCET explains that C.L. Peckham opened what he called "Ye Market Place" near Glendale, California, in 1923.

What drove Ye Market Place's sales? For one thing, multiple stores all in the same place was a novel concept at the time. KCET says that 23 separate stores, all selling food items, inhabited the location. It was also unique because of its wholesale embrace of commuter culture.

Stacker details how Peckham intentionally set Ye Market Place right alongside Los Feliz Road, a busy commuter highway. Peckham configured the market in a U-shape, allowing drivers to pull onto the 15,000 feet of parking space (via KCET), park, do their shopping, and then pull right back onto the highway.

While Peckham might have innovated putting a grocery store alongside a highway instead of in communities and providing parking, he didn't really invent the concept of a supermarket with different departments. Groceteria says credit for that goes to The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, which became more well known as A&P Grocery Stores.

Still, Peckham's spirit of innovation could help grocery stores that might not survive this year. The next time you pull your car into a supermarket parking lot, perhaps it's C.L. Peckham to thank for that convenience.