Back in the early days, before the existence of Publix, A&P and Stop-N-Shop, people shopped at a trading post. Trading posts not only sold food, but furniture clothing, tools and other items. From there the trading post morphed into what was called a general store.
Local residents would walk or take their buggy to the general store to refill their staples such as flour, baking soda and canned goods. Many general stores sold crocks and dry goods as well. A customer would place an order with a clerk who would pull the items from stock. The customer would stay and wait while the order was filled, or they could have the order delivered to their home. It was a social outing, as well as a shopping trip, for some people.
Meats were purchased at the butcher’s shop and dairy items were obtained from a dairy farm, while eggs and vegetables were usually purchased from local families. You had to make several shops to get your shopping completed back then.
In 1908 Henry Ford’s invention changed life and it changed how people shopped. Rural people could now venture out further from their homes to do their shopping. With a car, families could shop anyplace they wanted.
The modern-day grocery store was founded on one man’s dream. That man, Clarence Saunders, invented the grocery store. His original store was not all that different from the grocery store as we know it today. The year was 1916, the place was Memphis, Tennessee.
In Clarence Saunders original store in Memphis, Tennessee, shoppers entered through a turnstile. There would be a supply of wooden baskets with handles available for the shoppers, who would fill the hand baskets with treasures.
Saunders wanted to keep the cost of groceries down. In order to keep expenses down, less employees were needed. To achieve that, the customer helped himself and then proceeded to an area where an employee took the money.
The aisles were not big and the choices were limited, but that small grocery store in Memphis, Tennessee has grown. It is still in business today, that chain grocery store is called Piggly Wiggley. Mr. Saunders original store is now a museum, and it is set up to look like it would have in those early days. I did notice some of the canned goods were marked 17 cents! What a bargain!
Mr. Saunders never fully explained how he came up with the name Piggly Wiggley. One theory is that he wanted a name that people would remember, and if that is the case, he succeeded! Piggly Wiggly holds many ‘firsts’ in the grocery industry. To see the complete list, including the first to use refrigerated cases to hold perishable food, click here.
According to their website, Piggly Wiggley has over 600 stores in 17 states, all are independently owned. Stores are mainly in the south but there are a few in Wisconsin and Oklahoma as well.
I discovered Piggly Wiggly the first time in a small town in Georgia and I got a kick out of the name. Mr. Saunders would be pleased that it is a name even I remembered!
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