Grocery chain that revolutionized industry celebrating its golden milestone

Grocery chain that revolutionized industry celebrating its golden milestone

LELAND, NC (WECT) - The first Publix Supermarket is scheduled to open Wednesday in the Port City and it is the latest in new grocery stores that are scheduled to come to Wilmington this year.

However, the supermarket chain that set the way grocery stores now operate is celebrating a milestone anniversary.

In early September 1916, Americans began shopping for groceries in a new way at a store that featured a different type of logo.

Before then, it was the store clerks that would fill the grocery orders of customers. But store owner Clarence Saunders felt that resulted in wasted time and expense. And so, despite predictions that it would fail, Saunders' open the first Piggy Wiggly Grocery Store, in Memphis, TN, and for the first time, there were shopping baskets, open shelves, and no clerks to shop for the customer.

Today, there are more than 600 Piggly Wiggly stores serving 17 states. Leland Store Manager Daniel Teachey says one thing the now 100-year-old business still does is to fill Saunders' obligation to customers.

"The grocery store business is a very common-sense business. It is a customer service related business, take care of your customers, give them what they need and what they want, and they come back to you. That is what it is all about, giving service to your customers" said Teachey.

Many of the conveniences and services that American shoppers now enjoy were introduced first by the company.

And another practice the chain still uses is an almost dying art of meat cutters in the stores, while many other supermarket chains ship in meat products, treated with preservatives.

"We are cutting meat just like they did 100 years ago. We do cut our own meats, all of it comes in fresh, we package it fresh, we do it for the taste and quality of the meat," said Teachey.

Even though there are no Piggly Wiggly stores in the Port City, Teachey says they hope to have another one in the city in the future.

"We have a lot of people who call and ask us to come to Wilmington. We draw from Carolina Beach, Hampstead, Whiteville. We have people who shop with us from those areas, and they pass a lot of supermarkets to come to Piggly Wiggly. They are sticking with the Pig, and we want them to keep sticking with the Pig," said Teachey.

And in honor of Piggly Wiggly's golden anniversary, the grocery chain has cash, food and shirt giveaways now underway.

However, Clarence Saunders' reason for choosing the intriguing name "Piggly Wiggly" remains a mystery. Someone once asked him why he had chosen such an unusual name for his organization, Saunders' said "so people will ask that very question." Regardless of his inspiration, he succeeded in finding a name that would be talked about and remembered.

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