Independent Store News Southeast

Piggly Wiggly Ala. Show A Celebration Of Piggly Wiggly’s Heritage

At the mini-Piggly Wiggly: Craig Sanford and Ken Hesley, Sell Ethics; Terry Troup, Piggly Wiggly; Lee Hood and Sierra Heath, Sell Ethics.

Piggly Wiggly Alabama Distributing Co. celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first Piggly Wiggly store opening at its recent food show, held May 10-11 in Birmingham.

Clarence Saunders opened the first Piggly Wiggly, which is described as America’s first true self-service grocery store, on Sept. 6, 1916, on Jefferson Street in Memphis, Tennessee.

To commemorate the anniversary, Piggly Wiggly Alabama’s show featured a miniature 1916-era store that was constructed based on the archives from the first store. The mock store featured the iconic brands that were available in 1916. Where possible, vintage labels were reproduced to show what the brands looked like at that time.

The company also held a birthday celebration for Mr. Pig, complete with cake and ice cream. Several costumed characters from vendors joined the celebration with Mr. Pig. Jazz music was played prior to a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday.”

Awards were given to the vendors that best supported the anniversary theme.

On the grocery side, first place went to Sell Ethics; second to Advantage Solutions; and third was a tie between PepsiCo/Quaker and Kellogg. For perishable vendors, first place went to Champs Chicken; second to Advantage Marketing; and third to Southern Sales.

Saunders was ahead of his time when he came up with the Piggly Wiggly concept. In grocery stores of that time, shoppers presented their orders to clerks who gathered the goods from the store shelves. A flamboyant innovator, as Saunders is described, 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: let shoppers serve themselves.

Despite predictions that this new kind of store would fail, Saunders opened that first Piggly Wiggly, complete with shopping baskets and open shelves and no clerks to shop for the customer, and succeeded.

More photos from the show can be seen here.

About the author

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Lorrie Griffith

An observer of the grocery industry since 1988. Away from her editor job, she's a wife and mother of two grown sons and thinks cooking is (usually) relaxing.

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