In the 1890s the concept of a self-service restaurant developed in the USA. Based on the Scandinavian model of the smorgasbord it was given the Spanish name “Cafeteria” by John Kruger when he was serving food at the World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago Worlds Fair). Perhaps it was the association of Columbus with Latin America that inspired Kruger to call his format the Spanish for Coffee Shop.
On this day in 1916 the first self-service grocery store opened in Memphis Tennessee. The Piggly Wiggly opened by Clarence Saunders was originally marketed as a grocery version of the cafeteria and was called a “Groceteria”. You entered through a turnstile. You were offered a basket or a grocery cart for convenience. It offered self service, price marked goods and a customer checkout. The supermarket was born.
I have seen the rise and fall of many groceterias over the years, including the Ballymun Cash Stores (which was in Finglas), H. Williams, Superquinn, Quinnsworth, Crazy Prices, Super Crazy Prices, Roches Stores. The rise and survival of Iceland, JC Savages in Swords, Nolans in Clontarf, Musgraves/Supervalu, Dunnes Stores, Tesco and most recently the German invasion of Aldi and Lidl.
As a kid growing up in Dublin I was always exposed to supermarkets. On the other hand my summers were spent in Kilkee in the West of Clare. There were no supermarkets in 1960’s Clare. I have vivid memories of my mothers frustration, on her holidays, having to queue at the butchers and at the grocers to be served one at a time with a long line of other mothers. I always had the enjoyable job of going to the bakery. Picking up fresh loaves, hot from the oven and bringing them back to the house for breakfast time.
Travelling to the continent in 1976 was an eye opening revelation. The French Hypermarche was a decade ahead of Ireland. All those wooden barrels full of olives, who knew olives were so popular? Those were the days when you bought Olive oil in a pharmacy in Ireland to treat an ear infection. Very different days.