Piggly Wiggly®, America's first true self-service grocery store,
was founded in Memphis, Tennessee in 1916 by Clarence Saunders.
In grocery stores of that time, shoppers presented their orders
to clerks who gathered the goods from the store shelves. Saunders,
a flamboyant and innovative man, noticed this method resulted in
wasted time and man hours, so he came up with an unheard-of solution
that would revolutionize the entire grocery industry: he developed
a way for shoppers to serve themselves.
Despite predictions that this new kind of store would fail, the
first Piggly Wiggly opened September 6, 1916 at 79 Jefferson Street
in Memphis. Operating under the unusual name Piggly Wiggly, it was
unlike any other grocery store of that time. Shopping baskets, open
shelves, no clerks to shop for the customer -- unheard of!
Piggly Wiggly Corporation, established by Saunders when he opened
the first store in Memphis, secured the self-service format and
issued franchises to hundreds of grocery retailers for the operation
of Piggly Wiggly stores.
The original Piggly Wiggly Corporation became owner of all Piggly
Wiggly properties: the name, the patents, etc., and Saunders began
issuing stock in the Corporation. This stock was successfully traded
on the New York Stock Exchange for some time, but through a series
of stock transactions in the early '20s, Saunders lost control of
Piggly Wiggly and had no further association with the company.
Piggly Wiggly Corporation continued to prosper as franchiser for
the hundreds of independently owned grocery stores franchised to
operate under the Piggly Wiggly name and over the next several decades,
functioned successfully under various owners.
All in a
Saunders' reason for choosing the intriguing name Piggly Wiggly ®
remains a mystery; he was curiously reluctant to explain its origin.
One story is that he saw from a train window several little pigs
struggling to get under a fence, and the rhyming name occurred to
him then. Someone once asked him why he had chosen such an unusual
name for his organization, and Saunders' reply was, "So people
will ask that very question." He wanted and found a name that
would be talked about and remembered.
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Piggly Wiggly® "Firsts"
Piggly Wiggly's introduction of self-service grocery shopping truly
revolutionized the grocery industry. In fact, many of the conveniences
and services that American shoppers now enjoy were introduced first
by Piggly Wiggly®.
Piggly Wiggly was the FIRST to
provide checkout stands.
price mark every item in the store.
give shoppers more for their food dollar through high volume/low
profit margin retailing.
feature a full line of nationally advertised brands.
use refrigerated cases to keep produce fresher longer.
put employees in uniforms for cleaner, more sanitary food
and use patented fixtures and equipment throughout the store.
franchise independent grocers to operate under the self-service
method of food merchandising.
happened to Saunders?
After Saunders' disassociation with Piggly Wiggly®, he opened
a chain of stores which operated under the name "Clarence Saunders,
Sole Owner of My Name Stores," and although it was successful,
the Depression forced Saunders to close the chain. Then, in l937,
Saunders designed and constructed a prototype of an automated store,
which he called the "Keedoozle" (for "Key Does All").
Saunders had once again captured the country's attention with his
latest venture; however, mechanical failures eventually closed the
Until the time of his death in October, l953, Saunders was developing
plans for another automatic store system called the "Foodelectric."
But the store, which was to be located two blocks from the first
Piggly Wiggly store, never opened.
Clarence Saunders never fulfilled his dream of opening a truly automated
store. Sadly, his death came just as the full impact of his 'better
idea' for grocery merchandising was becoming apparent. Saunders'
creative genius was decades ahead of his time.
Today there are more than 600 Piggly Wiggly stores servicing communities
in 17 states. All Piggly Wiggly stores are independently owned and
operated, and are located primarily throughout the southeast and
as far north as Wisconsin.
Piggly Wiggly LLC, the corporate headquarters, is located in
Keene, New Hampshire and issues Piggly Wiggly franchises to qualified
independent grocery retailers. The Company also provides the retailers
with services such as retail support,
marketing programs and a line of promotional items.
Piggly Wiggly LLC is an affiliate of C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc., ranked as the 8th largest privately held company in the nation. For 85 years, C&S has provided first-class warehousing & distribution services to their customers. From over 36 warehouse facilities throughout the United States, C&S Associates serve some of the largest supermarket chains in the nation. Their corporate offices are located in Keene, New Hampshire.
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