Magruder's on Connecticut Avenue isn't as large as the Safeway across the street. Some of the amenities of modern chain supermarkets are absent and in Magruder's narrow aisles bargain-hunting consumers are more evident and more aggressive.
Here it's not just a token penny or so savings for buying a quantity: Three loaves of bread for $1, or one loaf for 39 cents; bananas are five for $1, or 29 cents each. Jane Goldwyn and others are attracted primarily by sale items they see in ads. "I just buy their specials," she said, "fruits and vegetables mainly."
How does David compete with Goliath on such items?
"It's a couple of really small things," said Mark Polsky, a buyer for Magruder's. "We work on a little lower margin, and because we're small we can keep on top of things. When we advertise we offer a good saving and we pass along all the deals that we can buy.
"How do we do it?" he said. "I guess we work a little harder. We run alot, talk to a lot of people and when we see what's going on, we can react" (faster than a chain).
During the latest inflation push, he has observed no great difference in consumer volume, nor in Margruder's pricing policy. "The same things that happen to everybody, happen to everybody," he said philosophically. Does he sense boycotts coming, similar to that against beef in 1973?" "No," he said, "I think people are tired (of protesting). If the price is not right, they won't buy. But it's an individual decision."
Competition? "It's there," he said. "But we're small and there's plenty of consumers out there. We don't attempt to bother anyone. We do our thing and let it go at that."