Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Can you name the first self-service supermarket in the USA?

If I were to ask this question to a group of friends I can guaranty I would get mixed answers.  Some might think the answer is A & P, while others may say Acme.  I cannot name all of the grocery stores in the US, but I can tell you which one was the first self-service store.  Are you ready…the first ‘self service’ grocery store in the US is…..drum roll please….

Exterior photo of Piggly Wiggly grocery store

Here are the facts:
First Self-Serve Grocery Store:  Piggly-Wiggly
Inventor:  Clarence Saunders
First Grocery Store Opened:  1916
First Piggly-Wiggly Location:  Memphis, Tennessee

There were grocery-type stores prior to Piggly-Wiggly but they were not self-service.  Back then the customer had to approach the counter and place an order.  That counter person then proceeded to fill the order.  If it was a few items it was usually stated verbally, but for larger orders the customer normally handed the counter person a list.  This type of store required a large number of employees in order to keep things moving.

Once Mr. Saunders came up with his idea of self-service it meant fewer employees which equaled less expense for the company.  The customers at the “Pig-Wig” selected their own grocery items as they walked through the store, which was something new and different and it caught on.

Being a Yankee transplant in Tennessee my husband and I never heard of Piggly-Wiggly.  It was during a vacation in Shellman Bluff, Georgia we first encountered a Pig-Wig in Townsend, GA.  There isn’t much in that area except for a few seafood restaurants and the closest “big name” grocery store was a good 45 minutes away.  We didn’t want to drive that far. 
Photo of grocery store circular

During a leisurely ride in the country we found the Piggly-Wiggly.  I wasn’t all that impressed except for the fact they were selling local fresh corn-on-the-cob.  The corn was out of this world, which was reason we went back a few more times during our stay. 

Now, 8 or 9 years later, we live in a small town which has a Piggly-Wiggly.  It’s not one of my favorite places to shop but it does come in handy if I happened to need butter or eggs for a recipe and don’t have time to drive over an hour to a different grocery store.  If you shop there be sure to check the ‘use by dates’ as I’ve found many products out of date for several months.

If you don’t live in any of the following states you probably never heard of Piggly-Wiggly:
Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Now you know the name of the first self-service grocery store in the USA in case it ever comes up in conversation!

Photos belong to AbbyG

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