Schwegmann Bag Courtesy Margie Schwegmann-Brown.jpg

The Schwegmann's bag with an election plug.


There's a new book out about John G. Schwegmann, the New Orleanian who built the once-revolutionary and now-defunct supermarket chain, and author David Cappello and friends are planning a 106th birthday bash this weekend to honor its publication.

But if nostalgia for the groundbreaking modern grocery is having a moment, the thought of one of Schwegmann's signature practices is a reminder of how much has changed.

Back in the day, shoppers would routinely find Schwegmann's political thoughts and endorsements for his favored candidates — including himself, when he ran for Public Service Commission and other offices —  displayed on the side of their paper grocery sacks. Clearly he wasn't too worried about alienating customers by taking a stand or backing a politician they might not like.

Imagine what would happen if a mass retailer tried something like that in these bitterly divisive times. Shoppers would likely vote with their wallets, and choose to patronize the stores whose owners share their views and shun those on the other side. That's already happening with a handful of businesses that do openly espouse political views, places like Hobby Lobby. The world could be divided between red stores and blue stores.

Cappello's book is titled "The People's Grocer," which is another sign of a bygone era. If a grocery owner followed John Schwegmann's lead today, the first question would be: Which people?

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.