Fedco – SoCal’s Store for Everything

La_Cienega_Fedco

The L.A. Fedco store on La Cienega Blvd. in 1999, just before its closure.

When I was young, my family went shopping at a store that has just about everything. It was called Fedco and it existed from 1948 to 1999. Before there was Kmart, Target, Walmart or Costco, Fedco was SoCal’s one-stop shopping place.

For those of you that don’t know what Fedco is, the term Fedco means: Federal Employees Distribution Company. The chain was very unique because it was a non-profit organization, founded by 800 US Postal Workers who wanted to buy things directly from wholesalers. In addition, Fedco was an early hypermarket that sold just about everything, including groceries, electronics, clothes, household items, garden tools, sporting goods, just about anything you can think of…

Fedcologo

It was also the first department store where all customers must sign up for membership in order to enter the store, much like the Costco chain of today. Originally, a Fedco lifetime membership costs less than $5. By 1998, just before the its closure, it was $10. At its peak, Fedco had about 4 million members and most of its stores would be often be jam packed with customers who wanted just about anything. There is YouTube video of Sara Brattman, who was shopping at the L.A. Fedco location in 1984 that shows how a Fedco store looks like.

Fedco had 9 stores in Southern California, 8 of them in the Los Angeles area, including the Pasadena, California location, where we regularly shopped, as well as the famous La Cienega location in Los Angeles, and one in San Diego. For most of its existence, all Fedco stores were closed on Wednesdays. There was also the Fedco Reporter, a catalog that featured monthly specials, as well as a few articles about California history. It was mailed to all Fedco members every month until the chain’s demise in 1999. Since my parents were Fedco members until the very end, we regularly received the Fedco Reporter for the specials.

Unfortunately, in the 1980’s and 1990’s, Fedco faced a lot of competition from all sorts of national chains, including Target, Walmart, Costco, Kmart, Best Buy, Macy’s, and of course, Costco. Fedco never expanded beyond the Los Angeles and San Diego areas and ultimately, it filed for bankruptcy in 1999. Most Fedco stores, including the Pasadena store were torn down and replaced by Target stores, while others were down and are now long forgotten. The Target location at the old Fedco store still exists today.

planet-target-pasadena

The Pasadena Fedco location today, now a Target.

I still fondly remembered that last time we went to Fedco back in the summer of ’99, just when the entire chain was going out of business. We bought whatever inventory they had left and treasured the last time we shopped there.

Additional credits to Wikipedia and Syd Ngoshi.