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EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. — The parking lot was dark when Marie Franklin and her husband, Sam, last stopped at a corner store near their home. The couple didn’t want much from the market that night. But they still strategized before Sam, 49, went inside.

“My husband wouldn’t let me go in,” Marie Franklin, 57, recalled. “About four or five guys were hanging around the door.”

For her, the scene felt all too familiar in a city where it’s getting harder to find a safe place to buy milk. In some neighborhoods across the country, such corner stores often stock more alcohol than food — and poor-quality groceries

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