But his “crazy” idea worked. Not only did his customers not steal from him, as many had predicted, but they loved being able to actually do their own shopping. The self-service model also allowed Saunders to lower his prices in comparison with other stores.
Piggly Wiggly’s innovations didn’t stop with self-service. It was also the first grocery store to use checkouts, shopping carts, refrigerated displays for produce, and uniforms for its employees. It was the first store to price all its merchandise, market its own national brands, and issue franchises to other stores that wanted to use its self-service model. By the 1930s, it already had hundreds of franchises. Today, Piggly Wiggly boasts over 530 stores in 17 states, including Illinois and Wisconsin.
No one knows how Piggly Wiggly got its name. Saunders took that secret to his grave. It probably was to arouse curiosity in the hopes of generating business. In that, Saunders was certainly successful.
In 1961, Jewel Food Stores decided to expand yet again, with the purchase of the Osco Drug company. For several decades, Jewel and Osco stores maintained different locations. After 1983, most Jewel and Osco stores shared facilities but operated separately. In 1999, Albertson’s, another grocery store chain, purchased Jewel and Osco (along with other chains) from Jewel’s parent company, American Stores. In 2010, Jewel and Osco officially merged, becoming the Jewel-Osco company.
Jewel-Osco currently operates 185 stores in Illinois, Iowa, and Indiana, as part of a larger chain of over 2,200 stores. It’s come a long way from the horse-drawn tea delivery business that it started from!