Kroger's First Store Was Much Different Than You'd Expect

Today, Kroger is one of the most popular grocery chains in the country, operating over 2,700 stores throughout the U.S., according to Food Industry. But though it's a giant in the grocery game today, Kroger came from much humbler beginnings. In fact, the very first Kroger store wasn't even called "Kroger" when it originally opened for business.

According to Britannica, what we know as Kroger today actually originated from a grocery store called the Great Western Tea Company, which was founded by Bernard Kroger and B.A. Branagan in 1883. The company's website reports that Kroger invested his life savings into opening the first store at 66 Pearl Street in Cincinnati, Ohio. However, as Britannica reports, Kroger was soon able to buy out his partner's share in the business, and by 1885, he had expanded to own a chain of four grocery stores. But while today's Kroger stores carry all types of groceries and usually include an in-store pharmacy and florist, the first Kroger looked much different.

How Kroger has changed since the first store opened

According to Kroger's website, grocery stores in the late 1800s and early 1900s didn't offer the variety that today's stores have. Two good examples are bread and meat; usually, grocery stores would buy their bread from an outside baker, so you wouldn't see in-store bakery departments offering fresh bread and treats. Also, grocery stores before the 1900s wouldn't typically sell meat or have their own meat counter — instead, you'd have to make a stop at the butcher to pick up fresh meat.

Bernard Kroger was the first to change this. In 1901, he became the first grocer in the U.S. to open his own bakeries, according to Kroger's website. As Britannica reports, this prompted a name change in 1902 from the Great Western Tea Company to Kroger Grocery and Baking Co. Then, in 1904, Kroger acquired a meat company and set up the first in-store meat counters. However, these changes all took place over 18 years after Kroger opened his first store, so it originally looked very different from today's grocery stores and didn't include a bakery or meat department until much later. The first Kroger store may have opened under a different name and only carried a limited selection of groceries, but it helped spark a nationwide chain that's still recognized and shopped today.