World’s First Supermarket Opened 100 Years Ago This Week
07 September, 2016
We take it for granted now that we can go into a supermarket and pick our own food, but that hasn’t always been the case.
The Piggly Wiggly store at 79 Jefferson Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee, which was supposed to open on 6 September 1916, but didn't welcome customers until 11 September due to last minute construction delays, was the world’s first self-service supermarket.
Before that customers had to give their shopping lists to the clerks, who would then pick out the goods. Thus, food was more expensive due to higher staff costs.
As you can see from these archive photos, this retail model became hugely popular and many supermarkets followed suit to self-service in the ensuing years. Piggly Wiggly is now a chain of over 600 stores across the Midwest and Southern US, but a somewhat smaller operation than at its early 1930s peak, when it had over 2500.
The store at 79 Jefferson Avenue no longer exists sadly, but a replica can be found in the Pink Palace Museum and Planetarium in Memphis, which was also built by Piggly Wiggly founder Clarence Saunders.
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