Head Shops and Whole Foods: Countercultural Retailers of the 1960s and 1970s
Head shops specialized in hand-made crafts, tie-dye textiles, posters, incense, and accessories for smoking marijuana. At natural foods stores, hippies and environmental activists bought and sold organic and unprocessed foods, championing such items because their products required far fewer pesticides, fossil fuels, and packaging than the items found at supermarkets.
Countercultural entrepreneurs and their consumers patronized these businesses in the hopes of building a less bureaucratic and less alienating consumer culture that was firmly based in local communities. Amid declining faith in traditional forms of public and institutional life, alternative retailers sought to expand the geography of American public life beyond church, school, and organizational meetings, with their retail stores doubling as community spaces for activists and politically conscious consumers. By the start of the ‘70s, however, some people in the counterculture had become deeply suspicious of these businesses and denounced them as “hip capitalists” who had been coopted by the larger forces of American business and popular culture.
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