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The invisible letter lurking at the end of the grocery store

By Curtis Honeycutt

I’ve lived in Indiana for 12 years now, and, prior to that, I was born and raised in Oklahoma. In both places, I couldn’t help but notice the same strange phenomenon when people talked about shopping at grocery stores. For some reason, people tend to add an “s” to the end of the name of the store.

In the Midwest, I hear Aldi’s, Meijer’s and Kroger’s all the time. In Oklahoma, I heard several people say Wal-Mart’s. I don’t think people are suggesting they went to multiple Kroger stores, so that’s why I wrote them as possessives instead of as plurals. Why do people do this?

It could be because some grocery stores already end in “s,” whether it’s a possessive or plural name: Whole Foods, Albertsons (which used to be possessive, but now it’s not), Trader Joe’s, Sprouts Farmers Market (no apostrophe necessary), Publix, and – my favorite – Schnucks. Shnucks, a St. Louis-based regional chain, just sounds like a word you’d call someone if you wanted to characterize him as some sort of dense nincompoop.

On the other hand, some of these stores have their origins as possessive names. For instance, Meijer began as “Meijer’s Thrifty Acres,” although Kroger started as “Kroger Grocery and Baking Company.” Did you know Wal-Mart was originally called “Walton’s Five and Dime?” However, we don’t call Wal-Mart “Walton’s,” so why the “s” on the end of Wal-Mart? Sam’s Club (founded by Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton) is like if Wal-Mart – which is already humungous – got exponentially bulkier, but I can’t get in because they keep denying me a membership.

My guess is adding an “s” to the end of grocery store names is a holdover from when many stores used the last name of the store owners as their names. These “last name-apostrophe s” stores were so common that many people instinctively add an “s” to the end of the grocery store name, regardless of its name or origin.

As Aldi makes headlines as the fastest-growing grocery store chain in the U.S., expect to hear more people say, “They’re putting in a new Aldi’s down the road.” And Amazon purchased Whole Foods Market, but I don’t expect to hear anyone saying “I get my groceries from Amazon’s” anytime soon; if he did, he’d sound like a giant Schnuck.

Curtis Honeycutt is a nationally award-winning syndicated humor writer. Connect with him on Twitter (@curtishoneycutt) or at curtishoneycutt.com.

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