Founded in 1916 by Clarence Saunders in Memphis, Tennessee, as the first self-service store, his was truly a concept whose time had come and which changed the face of the retail business. Previously, traditional stores had the owner or attendant fill orders from a list handed by a customer. Saunders opened a store where customers entered through a turnstile and proceeded to four aisles that contained the goods, they then picked what they wanted from shelves and took them to the cashier to tally up the bill. He issued franchises to hundreds of stores that operated independently, patented the concept in 1917, and so started the phenomenal growth of the adorable Mr. Pig brand.
Piggly Wiggly was a pioneer in a number of things; it was the first to affix prices on each item, first to have checkout stands, first to give shopping carts to customers in 1937 in Oklahoma, among others. However, come 1922 Saunders lost his assets and his stores after a series of events that forced him to turn it over to banks. His stores were divided and sold to other competing stores like Kroger, Safeway, Colonial and National Tea.
Even after the sale, some stores still used the Piggly Wiggly name and in 1978, Benson Wholesale, the owner of the name, was bought by Fleming Companies. Fleming went under in 2003 and was bought off largely (including the Piggly Wiggly name) by C & S Wholesale Grocers which today is its parent company.
There are 600 stores that are independently owned in 17 states, but primarily in small towns and cities. The company’s headquarter is in Keene, New Hampshire.