Piggly Wiggly turns 100

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Piggly Wiggly reached a real milestone on Sept. 6, 2016 – 100 years in business.

Michael Scott, the present manager of Piggly Wiggly in East Brewton, said he was surprised to learn all the history of the business.

“We have only had the franchise for a few years,” Scott said. “But our location is only one of several that has carried the Piggly Wiggly name in this area.”

When the Alco Shopping Center opened, there was a large store there, but it didn’t last that long.

Over the years, the location has been known by many names. For most of the time it was known as Big Bear and then Super Foods, with Lovelace Parker and Bobby Brooks as the owners.

“I was there for more than 30 years,” Brooks said. “Then we sold out to Hershel Capshaw and Kym Arnold of Geneva in 2002 and they changed the name to Magnolia Super Foods. They are still the owners of the store.”

Scott said that he is well satisfied with the changes.

“I became manager of the store in 2004,” he said. “Piggly Wiggly has been good to us. They really support their stores and bend over backwards to help the local stores. They also work well with local businesses.”

Today there are more than 600 Piggly Wiggly stores in 17 states. They are independently owned, but help is always there for support, marketing and promotions.

Most people are unaware that Piggly Wiggly is responsible for many “firsts” in the grocery business since it opened in 1916 in Memphis, Tenn., under the self-service idea of Clarence Saunders, who was ahead of his time.

His system was responsible for checkout stands, price marks on every item, offering nationally advertised products, using refrigeration to preserve freshness, using high volume/low profit to benefit the shoppers, wearing uniforms, using patented fixtures and equipment, and providing franchises to independent grocers to operate the self-service method of food shopping.

Piggly Wiggly was the first store to offer the unique idea of the time to let the customers shop for themselves.

Up until that point, shoppers would give their shopping lists to the grocer and let him get the items. Piggly Wiggly’s Saunders had the idea to save time by providing shopping baskets and letting the shoppers do their own shopping from open shelves. Many people have wondered where the name of Piggly Wiggly came from and Saunders never really explained the name. The only answer he ever gave was with a name like that, people would always be curious and ask that same question.

One story was that, while riding a train, he looked out of the window and saw several little pigs struggling to get under a fence and he thought of the name.

Today there are warehouses in strategical locations to ship merchandise, not only to Piggly Wiggly stores but to other warehousing and distribution services. Even though one does not often question why and where their food comes from before it is placed on the shelves, it is a business that affects everyone. To Piggly Wiggly we say thank you and Happy Birthday.