While in his sophomore year at Charlotte High School (1929), Theo started working for the local Kroger company located in the 100 block of South Main Street. A few years later ( June 24, 1936), he married his wife Atha. He continued with Kroger's for more than 23 years, spending 13 of those years as a meat manager, and another 10 years as a store manager. Realizing that he had tremendous experience in the grocery business, Theo dreamed of one day operating his "Own" market.
At age 39, this dream became a reality when Theo acquired a building located at 1019 Lansing Road in Charlotte, Michigan ( across from the airport). With hard work and determination, the first Carter's Market opened Monday, April 14, 1952.
Two years after Carter's Market opened, Theo became associated with IGA ( Independent Grocers Alliance), and chose them as his primary supply network.
IGA was originally organized in 1926 in Poughkeepsi, NY, with a concept that set independent grocers apart from their corporate chain counterparts. The theme of "Hometown Ownership" is what helped draw customers to IGA, and is the same philosophy Carter's continue to promote in our stores today.
In 1954, during the third year of Carter's operation, Theo added partners Carl Gordon and Charles Gordon. Business demands soon indicated the need for a second store, thus the acquisition of a store in Portland Michigan.
By 1966, the operation of four stores,( Grand Ledge in 1960 and Durand in 1964) was of such magnitude that a central office was needed to handle the administration of the company. The first office was located at 211 South Main Street, Charlotte, Michigan.. This new office was said to be the "nerve center" for the corporation. Originally headquartered in this office were Theo Carter, Charles Gordon, two supervisors, Carl Gordon and Jim Crandall, four general office associates and office manager, Bill Cox. At age 87 Bill Cox still actively works in our offices today. The progression of added stores and a corporate office reflected the potential of a well organized and carefully managed retail food operation.
Due to highway construction in June of 1966, the corporation purchased the National Food Store and relocated to the corner of Lovett and Washington, just one block off Main Street. This move more than doubled the store size, increasing weekly sales from $10,000 to $20,000 per week, to approximately $30,000 to $40,000 per week.
Carter's continued to grow by purchasing the Arnold & Becklund IGA store in Eaton Rapids in 1970, and Theo's first store in northern Michigan, Burns IGA, in North Branch in 1971. The store in North Branch was sold in 1974, and two stores, formerly Pinky's IGA in Houghton Lake, and Johnson's Supermarket in St. Helen were operated by Northern Supermarkets, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Carter's. The spring of 1980 lead the way for Northern Supermarkets, Inc. to open new stores in Lake City and Roscommon.
During 1983, the stores in Portland, Eaton Rapids and Roscommon were all sold. At this same time, stores were acquired in Cadillac, Big Rapid, Tawas, Petoskey and Cheboygan.
In 1985 stores were opened in Boyne City, Gaylord and Onaway. Carter's also purchased two Country Star Restaurants in Boyne City and Gaylord.
The Country Start Restaurants were sold in 1988 ( Boyne City) and 1992 (Gaylord.)
Also in 1992, a new store was built in Charlotte, across the same highway where the original Carter's Market had been located, making this the second Carter store in Charlotte.
In 1994 Oscoda was purchased and three years later in 1997 the AuGres store was purchased. That same year the Grand Ledge store closed after 37 years of business.
In 1998 Carter's acquired four more stores in Marysville, St. Clair, Marine City and Wadhams.
In 2000 Carter's opened a store in Richmond and the Carter/Bazaire Family gave us the unique opportunity of becoming a 100% Employee Owned company.
In 2001 three more stores in Beaverton, Edenville, and Gladwin were added to our chain for a total of 23 stores and over 1,300 associates. What a success story!
During Theo's successful career as owner and president of Carter's IGA, he was actively involved as a member of the Board of Directors for Grocers Baking Company, Member of the National Advisory Board, Retail Grocers, Super Food Services, Inc., Member of the Board of Directors of Charlotte United Fund, Member of the Charlotte Rotary and Masonic Lodge, and member of Charlotte Congregational Church, where he served as a deacon for six years. In 1972 Theo was the recipient of Super Foods designation as Michigan's Outstanding Retailer of the Year. Though the notable Theo Carter passed away more than 16 years ago, his hometown principles are still very alive today, and remain a large part of Carter's customer service philosophy. As he once stated, his biggest goal was to "find new ways to increase productivity in food retailing." With the current 23 stores in operation, this goal has been met time and time again.
After son-in-law, Keith Bazaire decided to retire in 2000, the Carter/Bazaire family sold their stock to the Employee Stock Ownership Plan, creating the unique opportunity of 100% Employee Ownership, which continues today.
Today, Theo Carters Grandson Jeff Bazaire along with Rex Harcourt , Glen Minton and Tom Robinson make up the Carters Management Team which oversee the day to day operations of the Employee Owned Company.