The Bizarre Story of Piggly Wiggly, the First Self-Service Grocery Store

All grocery stores today are self-serve, but it wasn't always that way. Piggly Wiggly opened in Memphis, Tenn., on Sept. 6, 1916, with founder Clarence Saunders offering shoppers something they never had before: the ability to do their own shopping. Before Piggly Wiggly, groceries were sold at stores where a clerk would assemble your order for you, weighing out dry goods from large barrels. Saunders, opted to change the job of store clerks to  stocking shelves and ringing out groceries and let the shoppers do their own shopping. Just like shoppers today, they picked up a basket and began going through the store gathering the items they wanted before proceeding to the check-out counter. By the end of the first year, there were 9 Piggly Wiggly locations around Memphis, and wasn’t long before other grocery stores followed suit and began allowing shoppers to select their own groceries.