In 1883, Barney Kroger invested his life savings of $372 to open a grocery store at 66 Pearl Street in downtown Cincinnati. The son of a merchant, he ran his business with a simple motto: “Be particular. Never sell anything you would not want yourself.”
It was a credo that would serve The Kroger Co. well over the next 130 years as the supermarket business evolved into a variety of formats aimed at satisfying the ever-changing needs of shoppers.
With nearly 2,800 stores in 35 states under two dozen banners and annual sales of more than $115.3 billion, Kroger today ranks as one of the world’s largest retailers.
Many aspects of the company’s business today trace their roots to Mr. Kroger’s early efforts to serve his customers. Consider two specialty departments that today are regular fixtures in the company’s supermarkets – bakeries and meat and seafood shops. In the early 1900s, most grocers bought their bread from independent bakeries. But Mr. Kroger, always pursuing quality as the key ingredient for profit, recognized that if he baked his own bread, he could reduce the price for his customers and still make money. So, in 1901, he became the first grocer in the country to establish his own bakeries. He was also the first to sell meats and groceries under one roof.
Mr. Kroger also spied the promise of increasing his income by manufacturing the products he sold. It began in that first Kroger store on Pearl St. When farmers came to town with their produce, he bought far more cabbage than he could expect his customers to buy. He took the cabbage home to his mother who, following her favorite recipe, turned it into tangy sauerkraut that proved hugely popular with his German customers.