On September 6th, 1916, the first true American supermarket opened. Its name was Piggly Wiggly. The store opened in Memphis, Tennessee, and since its opening in 1916, it has amassed 530 stores across seventeen states in the United States. The reason why it’s the first true supermarket is because Piggly Wiggly is the first self-service grocery store. Before that, a clerk would assemble your groceries for you. The clerk would get dry goods from barrels, and oftentimes there would be many clerks running around to fulfill the customer’s orders. Having a self-serve supermarket cuts down on employees and makes more financial sense. Customers would enter, pick up a wooden basket and get the items off the shelves themselves. By the end of Piggly Wiggly’s first year in business, they expanded to nine more locations in Memphis.
Clarence Saunders is the founder of Piggly Wiggly. He thought of the name after seeing a couple of little pigs trying to get under a fence. He then thought of the rhyme, “Three Little Pigs,” and thought of the name, “Piggly Wiggly.” However, Clarence really just wanted to make the name slightly interesting so that people would be attracted to such an unusual name and therefore drive business and press.
He was clever because often people did ask, “Why the name Piggly Wiggly.” to which he would respond, “so people will ask that very question.” After he franchised his store and issued public stock, the company was no longer his to control. Later on, he tried to start an automated grocery store called Foodelectric, but the idea did not take off.