Thursday, January 22, 2015

Remembering Fedco...

Back in 1948, a group of postal workers, most of whom had served in the military forces during World War II, started up the Federal Employees' Distributing Company (F.E.D.Co.) It was pattern after the post and base exchanges where service members buy merchandise on a military installation. For many years, Fedco served only U.S. (civilian) Government workers. Eventually, local government employees were added, then students, then practically anyone could get a Fedco card.

The Fedco card looked like a credit card. It had no photograph. It was very common for one member to let a nonmember borrow the card. The only time the name was checked was if a personal check was used to buy merchandise.

The stores of Fedco were made up of several smaller stores. There was the main department store, a pharmacy, a gourmet supermarket, repair shops, caterer, a quick serve restaurant, a produce department (that was separate from the supermarket), and an auto department outside the store, usually with gasoline sales. 

When I joined Fedco in 1975 (my qualification was that I was a student at San Bernardino Valley College, which was located directly across the street from the San Bernardino location of Fedco) I paid $5.00 for my lifetime membership card. And a husband and wife could have their own separate cards with one membership. That changed during the last few years of the store chain. Membership increased to $10.00. And no more duplicates could be issued (unless you said you lost a card, but even that wouldn't be checked.)

Unlike membership stores today, Fedco dealt with normal quantities of items. The supermarket didn't have anything in bulk. It had some odd things. Wild african game meat, imported French pastries in the frozen food section, and brands from other parts of the country. Fedco had butcher's on duty who would custom package any kind of meat the store had for sale.

I remember how the merchandise was put into paper sacks and sealed completely with tape and staples. I guess they thought no one would try to sneak any stolen items into a bag that was so carefully sealed.

Fedco began losing money during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. It was after that when the huge membership stores began to come out. Fedco didn't stand a chance. They filed for bankruptcy in 1999 and closed a few months later.

Here is a list of the Fedco stores:

#1 Van Nuys

#2 La Cienega (Los Angeles)

#3 San Bernardino

#4 Cerritos (replaced the Lakewood store in 1970)

#5 National City (replaced the San Diego store in 1984)

#6 Pasadena (this location had a huge separate furniture store)

#7 Costa Mesa

#8 Ontario

#9 Escondido

#10 Buena Park


Today the locations in Van Nuys, Los Angeles,  Cerritos,  Pasadena,  and Costa Mesa are Target stores.

The San Bernardino location is a Mexican supermarket.

The National City and Buena Park location are Walmart stores.

The Ontario location is the operations building for the Ontario Police Department.

The Escondido location was demolished.

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