Grocery Store History

Definition: Grocery is the premises or space that occupies the business of a grocer. The grocer is the owner of the grocery or the person who deals in goods such as food, animal produce and products, as well as edible dry foods. Hence, the name grocery store is in particular reference to retailers of food. Any store that deals in an assortment of other items apart from food (non-food) is usually known as a supermarket.

Etymology: The first known use of the word ‘grocery’ was in the 15th century. Grocery was referred to the “goods sold by a grocer.” In the mid 14th century, a group formed a fraternity called the Ancient Guild of Pepperers, which in 1376, became The Company of Grocers of London, which is now known as the Grocer’s Hall. The term grocer traces its origin from the Old French word ‘grosserie.’ The term in particular referred to ‘one who buys and sells in gross’ from the Anglo-Fr. word ‘grosser,’ which means wholesaler or dealer in quantity.

In the U.S., American English (1828) took the term grocery to mean ‘a grocers’ shop.’ A U.S. grocery store chain, ACME, was founded in Philadelphia in the year 1891 and was among the first stores in the region. The concept of a self-service grocery store began around 1913 when a firm in Montana obtained a copyright for the word ‘groceteria,’ but it was not until 1916 that self-service was recognised. Previously, shoppers had to give the grocer their grocery list and wait to be served. The self-service concept has given shoppers a chance to pick items themselves; this has revolutionized the grocery store business.

Early 1800 general stores sold everything from food to manufactured items such as boots, tools, household supplies and had an apothecary section with items such as medicines, elixirs, remedies, toiletries and soaps.