The Biggest Little Country Store in the World: How Crawford’s Markets Fed the San Gabriel Valley and Transformed The Industry On-demand Webinar

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Once upon a time in the San Gabriel Valley, families flocked to a very special chain of supermarkets owned, operated and innovated by Leemoria Barbara and Wayland Howard “W.H.” Crawford.

From the flagship 1929 Crawford’s Market at Valley and New in Alhambra (still extant with its 1964 Old West remodel) to Crawford’s Five Points in El Monte (“The Biggest Little Country Store in the World”), from Montebello to Rosemead, Pasadena to Glendale, these visionary grocery stores offered a great selection of fresh California produce, dairy, meat and staples–and so much more.

Conveniently located on huge corner lots in newly subdivided agricultural districts, every Crawford’s was a mercantile village, with small businesses to serve the needs of a post-war suburban customer base with growing families and money to spend.

Customers appreciated the convenience of combining the weekly marketing with a stop at the barber shop, shoe repair or dry cleaner. Forgot to pick up something for the little lady on Valentine’s Day? Nip into the jewelry store for the perfect trifle.

Live plants, sewing notions, TV sets, auto repair, school clothes, cameras, eyeglasses, fountain pens, film and developing, gasoline, you could find all that and more at the store “open Sunday, Monday and always” from 9 to 9.

But Crawford’s wasn’t just about the retail trade. Every store had a huge parking lot, perfect for hosting community gatherings like Easter parades, Hallowe’en costume contests or a visit from Santa Claus, arriving in modern fashion by helicopter. You could support the El Monte Community Chest when buying a chunk of the world’s largest cheese round, or take a spin on one of Bud Hulbert’s first kiddie rides–before he went to work for Knott’s Berry Farm.

The Crawford family’s markets are gone now, but their mid-century innovations live on in unexpected places in retail, merchandising and marketing, and in the memories of San Gabriel Valley folks.

Join Esotouric, L.A.’s most eclectic sightseeing tour company, and Mitchell Crawford for a virtual celebration of his grandparents’ legendary Crawford’s Market chain. Mitchell grew up working in the family business, and has adapted what he learned to his successful international retail consulting career. Come discover a fascinating Southern California success story, illustrated with rare vintage photos and insider lore.

This webinar is an illustrated lecture packed with rare photos that will bring Crawford’s Markets and mid-century San Gabriel Valley to life. And you’ll find the look of an Esotouric webinar is a little different than your standard dry Zoom session, with lively interactive graphics courtesy of the mmhmm app.

After the presentation, Mitchell, Kim and Richard will answer your questions, so get ready to be a part of the show.


About Esotouric: As undergraduates at UC Santa Cruz, Kim Cooper and Richard Schave inexplicably hated one another on sight. (Perhaps less inexplicably, their academic advisor believed they were soul mates). A chance meeting 18 years later proved much more agreeable. Richard wooed Kim with high level library database access, with which she launched the 1947project true crime blog, highlighting a crime a day from the year of The Black Dahlia and Bugsy Siegel slayings. The popular blog’s readers demanded a tour, and then another. The tour was magical, a hothouse inspiring new ways for the by-then-newlyweds to tell the story of Los Angeles. Esotouric was born in 2007 with a calendar packed with true crime, literary, architecture and rock and roll tours. Ever since, it has provided a platform for promoting historic preservation issues (like the Save the 76 Ball campaign and the landmarking of Charles Bukowski’s bungalow), building a community of urban explorers (including dozens of free talks and tours under the umbrella of LAVA) and digging even deeper into the secret heart of the city they love.

Rights and permissions: By attending an Esotouric webinar, you acknowledge that the entirety of the presentation is copyrighted, and no portion of the video or text may be reproduced in any fashion.

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