Supermarkets: The New City Square*

When you say “supermarket,” most Americans imagine a large warehouse-like (like a large building for storing things) building surrounded by a large parking lot filled with cars and SUVs (sports utility vehicles) and people pushing shopping carts filled with groceries. Eventually (in the end), the groceries get packed into the trunks of the cars and rear compartments (open area in the back) of the SUVs and taken home. Every day, thousands of people drive to the supermarket, buy their food, and leave. If Mark Hinshaw is right, this may soon change.

Hinshaw, an urban (city) design planner from Seattle, Washington, believes that supermarkets will soon play a dramatically different role in the life of urban America. In an article in Planning magazine, he predicts that supermarkets of the future will become the anchors (centers; places that attract people) of new and walkable (easy to walk in) neighborhoods.

Hinshaw points out that Americans were already beginning to spend less money on personal consumption (buying things) before the recent economic crisis. American families are getting smaller and the population is getting older. Fewer young people are moving out to the suburbs (areas outside of a city); more of them are choosing to live in denser (where many people live close together) urban areas.

Americans are beginning to drive less and walk more to lose weight and improve their health. A growing number of Americans are looking for ways to reduce the amount of gas they consume (use).

Some people are skeptical (doubtful; have questions), but Hinshaw insists that grocery stores are reemerging (being seen again) “as one of the cornerstones (important parts) of great places to live.” He says that many are becoming social places, places for people to gather and spend time with friends. Some grocery stores include coffee shops, espresso bars, and delis (delicatessens; places to buy sandwiches and salads), as well as comfortable indoor and outdoor seating. “People hang out, read the paper or a book, and meet friends,” Hinshaw says, “even when buying groceries isn’t part of the trip.”

Many of the new supermarkets will have just a few parking places, and some will have none. Hinshaw expects the pattern of shopping to change. He predicts that people will walk to the market every few days, buy two bags of fresh groceries, and walk home again. Today, many people drive to the supermarket once a week or twice a month and buy many bags of groceries.

Cities will have to change if Hinshaw’s dream is going to come true. He thinks people will walk more only if the areas they walk through have public spaces, like parks and gardens, and interesting stores to glance (take a quick look) in. If the walk is interesting, he believes that people will walk farther, especially for food!

The writer of an article I read thinks this is a great idea. He says that “Hinshaw’s … vision (idea or dream) of walkable neighborhoods centered around our most-used facility of all – our food markets – is not just a nostalgic (sentimental; from the past) idea.” He believes that it “makes sense (it’s practical, understandable) for planning the next generation of American neighborhoods and remaking the ones we have.

What do you think? Will supermarkets become the social gathering places of the future?

* A city square is an open area commonly found near the center of a traditional town, a place where people frequently gather.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL tutor/coach and creator of, where you can learn more about improving your English and preparing for tests, like the TOEFL.

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12 Responses to Supermarkets: The New City Square*

  1. Wolf says:

    In many cities and neighborhoods in Europe as well as most other regions of this planet it is absolutely common to shop for groceries once at least every other day, with small bags and within walking distance. Funny how that seems to sound like something revolutionary for Americans. Aren’t you supposed to be years *ahead* of everybody else, not behind? ;o)

  2. Hamid and Bahador says:

    Hamid: Will supermarkets become the social gathering places of the future?
    Bahador: Well, it depends.
    Hamid: On what?
    Bahador: On different factors.
    Hamid: What factors?
    Bahador: I said, “different” factors.
    Hamid: Name one of them.
    Bahador: I can’t.
    Hamid: Why?
    To be continued……

  3. Ara says:

    In the future there will be no department store or supermarket like this anymore. In my opinion, everybody will shop online. Running an online store will be much cheaper than a supermarket and with a cheap delivery people will buy their needs online, and there will be more fun places than supermarkets for people to gather and spend time with friends!

  4. Jose Maria, San Sebastian says:

    I have tried to send one message to Dr. Lucy Tse, by e.mail ( and it was not possible. I think that next Monday is her Birthday.
    Then, my best wishes and HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FELICIDADES, ZORIONAK from Spain.
    José María.

  5. Daniele says:

    So, I am already living in the future here in a little town in north-west Italy.
    My refrigerator is empty and I walk every day to the supermarket.

    A growing number of Americans are looking for ways to reduce the amount of gas they consume (use). I hope so, look at what ‘s happening in the Gulf of Mexico

  6. emiliano says:

    What Wolf said is more or less the same here, I use to go food shoping with a little shopping cart and walk a little to small fruit shops or some not so big super to make all my groceries shopping.
    Even it is usual to make some shopping at the same time we go for a walk as there are several groceries where you may buy all the necessary food.

    Of course there are also big, very big supers, where at the weekends people who are working all the week make their groceries shopping for all the following week.
    These big supers there are inside large areas where other kind of shops, restaurant, fast food sites or theaters take place and the families spend the day going around while they are shopping all kind of things.

    Thank you Warren it is nice to know your american way of living.

  7. Tania says:

    Hi! We cook fresh food with fresh vegetables for children every day. If it is necessary we go shopping for produce every day. In summer time we buy produce from our local gardens not from import.
    They are more healthy. But generally speaking , it is a pleasure to go shopping to the supermarket with children – where there are parks , nice stores with the latest news in fashion, what is trendy , new brands and attractive places for children where we can celebrate their birthday together with their friends. Yes, our supermarkets are an important social gathering place.
    Reading the recommended article, I think the Mark Hinshaw’ vision is right.
    In my country we frequently can see people who carry two bags of groceries out by hand every day , rather transporting a dozen or more bags by car twice a month.
    We prefer the freshest foods.

    Best wishes and don’t find produce looked picked over or rotten in your favorite supermarket.

  8. Tania says:

    Hi! Dear Warren, thank you very much for your kindness to offer us free of charge the opportunity to read The New York Times, including and News From Der Spiegel – Germany’s
    News Magazine. Incredible! I could see the California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. And a lot of the latest news…
    You are very kind. Thank you.

    Best wishes,


  9. Tania says:

    Hi! I have read that Ernest Hemingway had a great influence on the American society. I have read “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “A Farewell to Arms” and I have watched “The Old Man and the Sea” and the movie about his life on TV. Can you explain us which novel or story had the most important influence?
    Thank you.

  10. Tania says:

    Hi! Thank you for the explanation of the “SUVs” .

  11. Farahnaz says:

    Hi! Warrent,
    In my country there are some grounds located near the cities where farmers plant vegetables and grow fruits there. people who have cars can buy fresh fruits and vegetables from them. By the way some people buy a lot of fresh foods from farmers, then they come to the city along the streets and call out to attract people to buy the things they have bring. I think it’s a good idea to open a place near city where people can buy things which they need. Nowadays people prefer to buy foods nearby, because they are too busy to go far for purchase.
    Thanks for new words.

  12. David says:

    The szenario which is shown in the article reminds me to the situation in Germany. People here in Germany used to going to the supermarket several times a week.
    Furthermore you got a lot of grocery stores in the neighborhood, so you don´t need to take the car. So you can walk, because its not far away.
    But I think thats because Germany is much smaller than the USA and we need to save space 😉

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