Memphian Clarence Saunders opened the first Piggly Wiggly at 79 Jefferson Street in 1916, giving birth to the modern American supermarket. Up until then, shoppers went to small storefront shops, where they would ask the counter clerk for what they needed: a pound of flour, a half-dozen pickles, a block of cheese. The clerk went to the bulk storage area at the rear of the store, and measured out what the customer needed.
Saunders’s great idea was self-service. At the Piggly Wiggly, customers entered the store, carried a basket, and were able to pick out pre-packaged and priced containers of food, which they paid for at the payment station on their way out.
The Piggly Wiggly idea took off, and by 1923 there were 1,268 Piggly Wiggly franchises around the country. Saunders used some of his profits to build a massive mansion east of the city out of pink Georgia limestone, but he was never to live in the Pink Palace, which he lost as a result of a complex stock loss.
Today, Saunders’s Pink Palace is home to the Pink Palace Museum, which includes, among other things, a replica of the original Piggly Wiggly supermarket.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Tennessee, 5th Edition