Tuesday, September 6, 2016


JFK+50:  Volume 6, No. 2061


Memphis, Tennessee (JFK+50) Most people around the world know that Memphis was the home of Elvis Presley, but few most likely do not know that it is also the birthplace of Piggly Wiggly, the first self-service grocery store.

According to a state marker here in downtown Memphis, Clarence Saunders* opened his store on September 6, 1916 "with a brass band, a beauty contest and balloons for the children."

In addition to being the first self-service grocery, which allowed the store to charge lower prices, Piggly Wiggly also was the first to have shopping baskets and check-out stands.  Before the advent of self-service, a customer would give a list of items to the clerk who would in turn gather the items and add up the bill in pencil on the back of a sack.

The first Piggly Wiggly was located at 79 Jefferson Avenue and by 1932 the company had 2660 stores with total sales of $180 million.  Today Piggly Wiggly's headquarters are located in Keene, New Hampshire and has 600 independent stores in 17 states.

According to a story written by Tony Adams of The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Piggly Wiggly stores in Columbus and Phenix City, Alabama will be offering "golden tickets" to 1900 customers in honor of the 100th anniversary of Piggly Wiggly which will allow them to purchase five items each at the same prices advertised by the first Piggly Wiggly store back in 1916.

Those items include...

Eggs 29 cents, 12 ounce bacon 23 cents, 1 pound of butter 28 cents and 4 pounds of sugar 27 cents.

*Clarence Saunders (1881-1953) was born in Virginia & left school to clerk in a general store at age 14.  He organized Saunders-Blackburn Company, a grocery wholesaler in 1915 and patented the self-service grocery in 1917.

Despite Piggly Wiggly's success, CS was forced into bankruptcy in 1923 and afterwards had no association with the company.


"Alabama Piggly Wiggly stores celebrating 100th anniversary with golden tickets," by Tony Adams, September 6, 2016, The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

The Original Piggly Wiggly Store
Memphis, Tennessee (1918)
Photo by Clarence Saunders
Library of Congress Image

Piggly Wiggly State Marker
Memphis, Tennessee 
Photo by User: JeremyA (2006)