On February 4, 1928, the Star Bulletin noted that three men arrived from the mainland to open Hawai‘i’s first chain grocery store; it was situated on Beretania Street at Keʻeaumoku, a “large crowd attends the Piggly Wiggly opening.”
Andrew Williams, president and general manager of Piggly Wiggly Pacific made the decision to enter the Hawai‘i market and promised 7 stores by the end of the year. (Krauss)
The entry of Piggly Wiggly initiated the first national chain grocery store into the Islands; with it came a new way of food shopping.
Today, we take for granted the convenience of comparing and choosing from a wide range of prepackaged products, placing them in our shopping carts and going through a checkout.
The late-19th and early-20th centuries were the age of the independent mom-and-pop store. Grocery stores of that era tended to be small (generally less than a thousand square feet) and also focused on only limited aspects of food retailing.
Grocers sold what is known as “dry grocery” items, or canned goods and other non-perishable staples. Butchers and greengrocers (produce vendors) were completely separate entities, although they tended to cluster together for convenience’s sake.
These were counter-service stores; owners/workers were hands on with each customer, pulling individual needs out of bulk jars or bins and packaging each for each customer on the other side of the counter.
Piggly Wiggly stores (established by Clarence Saunders in Memphis in 1916) are widely credited with introducing America to self-service shopping, revolutionizing the grocery industry.
Self-service stores came to be known as “groceterias” due to the fact that they were reminiscent of the cafeteria-style eateries that were gaining popularity at the time. (groceteria)
Instead of a clerk to assist individual customer needs behind a counter, there were open aisles, open shelves with individually-packaged products to select from, shopping baskets and check-out stands.
The largest order for receipt printing National Cash Registers ever received has just been placed with The NCR Company by the Piggly Wiggly Stores. This order called for 1,030 receipt printing registers of the Class 800 type. One hundred of the registers were to be delivered at once and the remainder from time to time as new stores are opened up. (Hotel Monthly, Vol 26)
In the cafeteria style or “Piggly Wiggly” groceries, the storerooms were all planned alike, and every shelf had a designated and uniform place for the particular kind of groceries allotted to that particular space; and the grocery shelves were arranged to conform to the storeroom shelves.
Rather than pull and package for individual needs from bulk jars and bins, items such as sugar, rice, coffee, etc, were automatically weighed into uniform packages by a machine. The correct weight was stamped on the bottom of the package and it is then sealed by adhesive tape and put on display on a shelf in the aisle.
In the Piggly Wiggly stores customers become their own clerks and select their own purchases without interfering with any of the other customers who are on similar missions. By this method, the customer is made part of the machinery of distribution.
All goods are placed on the shelves with careful consideration as to display, convenience, and classification (several kinds of the same article are always grouped together.) Thus in one part of the store the soap will be found, in another the cereals and in another the canned goods.
The overhead of the store is reduced and the individual purchaser is directly benefited by the reduced price. (Hotel Monthly, Vol 26)
Piggly Wiggly was the first to:
• Provide checkout stands
• Price mark every item in the store
• 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 handling
• Design and use patented fixtures and equipment throughout the store
• Franchise independent grocers to operate under the self-service method of food merchandising
Shoppers and store owner loved it. Likewise, the Piggly Wiggle brand issued franchises to hundreds of people across the country – the company slogan was “Piggly Wiggly All Over the World.”
The number of Island Piggly Wigglys grew; however, “because of the inconvenience of proper supervision”, on January 2, 1935, Theo H Davies (then, a Hawai‘i Big 5 company) bought out the Piggly Wiggly brand in Hawai‘i. They expanded and grew into the 1950s.
While supermarkets increased in number throughout the mainland during the 1930s, it was not until after World War II that supermarkets developed on a large scale basis in Hawai‘i.
Foodland opened in May 1948, and Albert and Wallace Teruya started Times in 1949. Star Market opened its Mōʻiliʻili store in 1954. Chun Hoon in Nuʻuanu built a new store along supermarket lines, which opened in December 1954.
By 1957 supermarkets accounted for close to fifty percent of all retail food business in America. In 1963 the national chain Safeway made its appearance in the islands.
With lower payroll and handling costs, coupled with volume purchasing and high turnover in sales, the supermarket was able to cut prices and take over the retail grocery business. (HHF)
Supermarkets typically served as anchors for community shopping centers, providing economic stability and even encouraging further commercial and residential development in surrounding areas.
In addition, government-supported services such as libraries and post offices were often constructed within or immediately nearby these new commercial hubs. The clustering of such amenities provided individuals and families with the mainland style a “one-stop” shopping center. (docomomo) Davies sold Piggly Wiggly in the mid-1950s.
Saunders’ reason for choosing the intriguing name “Piggly Wiggly” remains a mystery; he was curiously reluctant to explain its origin. One story says that, while riding a train, he looked out his window and saw several little pigs struggling to get under a fence, which prompted him to think of the rhyme.
Another suggests that someone once asked him why he had chosen such an unusual name for his organization, to which he replied, “So people will ask that very question.” Regardless of his inspiration, he succeeded in finding a name that would be talked about and remembered. (Lots of information here is from Piggly Wiggly.)