Grocery Stores: Everything In One Place

Packaged food aisles at a Fred Meyer hypermarket in Portland, Oregon lyzadanger via Wikimedia Commons)
The aisles at a Fred Meyer grocery store in Portland, Ore. (Image by lyzadanger via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1916, Piggly Wiggly, the first self-service grocery store in the United States, opened its doors in Memphis, Tennessee.

Here are a few things you may not have known about the history of grocery stores.

Before 1916, customers would give a list of items to a clerk behind a counter, who would then go through the store gathering the items. This led to higher prices because of the higher payroll required and because of the lack of price competition on items.

Piggly Wiggly was founded by Clarence Saunders. The origin of the name is unclear. Saunders said he named his store so that people would ask why he chose that name.

The concept of self-service grocery stores were originally called “groceterias” a play on the concept of the self-service cafeteria.

In the first Piggly Wiggly, customers would enter the store through a turnstile, and walk through the four aisles in order, picking from the store’s 605 items. At the end of the maze, customers would pay a cashier and exit. The ability for customers to choose items led companies to focus on packaging and brand recognition. One thing customers didn’t use was a shopping cart. Piggly Wiggly was the first to introduce carts, but didn’t do so until 1937.

In 1922,  company founder Saunders, was forced out after failing in an attempt to corner the market in Piggly Wiggly stock and losing $9 million in the process.

By 1932, there were more than 2,600 Piggly Wiggly stores . Grocers across the country switched to self-service.

The company was eventually divided and sold to regional chains like Kroger and Safeway.

Piggly Wiggly continues with more than 600 franchised locations in 17 states, primarily in the Midwest and South.

The first supermarket, as we know it today, opened in 1930 in Queens, New York. The store, called King Kullen, introduced the idea of different departments in a much larger store.

Our question: Piggly Wiggly features prominently in the film “Driving Miss Daisy.” Who played the two lead roles in the film?


Today is Independence Day in Swaziland, Unification Day in Bulgaria, and Army Day in Pakistan.

It’s unofficially National Coffee Ice Cream Day, Barbie Doll Day, and Read a Book Day.

It’s the birthday of Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, who is 73; actress Jane Curtin, who is 69; and actor Idris Elba, who is 44.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1975, the top song in the U.S. was “Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell.

The No. 1 movie was “Jaws,” while the novel “Ragtime” by E.L. Doctorow topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Weekly question

The tennis U.S. Open has been played on what three surfaces?



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