Howard arrived in Philadelphia around 1928. The city was the second largest manufacturing center in the United States, and full of immigrants from Europe and the American South looking for opportunities and a better life.
Old farmers’ markets and pushcarts were being replaced with national chain stores like A&P Economy, which – by 1925 – had more than 1500 outlets in Philadelphia. These stores were small, and only two in the city were like Howard’s: “combination” stores offering groceries, meats, baked goods, dairy items and produce.
Incidentally, George Huntington Hartford, who founded the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, was a classic “Horatio Alger” story. He grew up on a rural farm in Maine. Initially A&P employed peddlers to deliver tea, coffee and spices in horse-drawn wagons – covering delivery routes in New England, the mid-west and the south.