Piggly Wiggly®, America’s first true self-service grocery store, was founded in Memphis, Tennessee in 1916 by Clarence Saunders. In grocery stores of that time, shoppers presented their orders to clerks who then gathered the goods from the store shelves. Saunders, a dynamic and innovative man, noticed that this method resulted in wasted time and expense, so he came up with an unheard-of solution that would revolutionize the entire grocery industry: he developed a way for shoppers to serve themselves.
Despite predictions that his novel idea would fail, Saunders’ first store opened on September 6, 1916 at 79 Jefferson Street in Memphis. Operating under the unusual name ‘Piggly Wiggly®’, it was unlike any other contemporary grocery store. There were shopping baskets, open shelves, and no clerks to shop for the customer – all of which were previously unheard of!
Piggly Wiggly® Corporation, which Saunders established when he opened his first store in Memphis, secured the self-service format and issued franchises to hundreds of grocery retailers to operate their own Piggly Wiggly® stores.
Piggly Wiggly® Corporation became the owner of all Piggly Wiggly® properties – the name, the patents, etc., and Saunders began issuing company stock soon after. The stock was successfully traded on the New York Stock Exchange for some time, but through a series of trades in the early 1920s, Saunders lost control of Piggly Wiggly® and had no further association with the company.
Despite Saunders’ departure, Piggly Wiggly® Corporation continued to prosper as a franchiser for hundreds of independently owned grocery stores operating under the Piggly Wiggly® name.
Piggly Wiggly® Name
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. 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.
Piggly Wiggly® Today
Today there are more than 500 Piggly Wiggly® stores serving communities in 18 states.
Piggly Wiggly®, LLC’s corporate headquarters are in Keene, N.H. It issues Piggly Wiggly® franchises to qualified independent grocery retailers. The company also provides the retailers with services such as support, marketing programs, and a line of promotional items.
Piggly Wiggly®, LLC is an affiliate of C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc., For over 100 years, C&S has provided first-class warehousing and distribution services to its customers. From more than 50 warehouse facilities throughout the United States, C&S serves some of the largest supermarket chains in the nation. Their corporate offices are located in Keene, N.H.