See inside the first Piggly Wiggly grocery store that opened back in 1916

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Old Piggly Wiggly store from 1918
This little Piggly Wiggly went to Memphis, Tennessee… and opened to customers in 1916. Not only was it the first PW shop, it was also the first self-service grocery store in the United States.

What did that mean? Well, up until that, there was far more interaction with shopkeepers than there is today.

As they wrote in an ad touting the benefits of their new shop, “At any place in a Piggly Wiggly store that you see anything you want, you have a perfect right to take with your own hands the very thing that appeals to you and which you desire to purchase.”

Here are some pictures of this first store two years into the business, along with some text from a Piggly Wiggly newspaper advertisement that same year.

Welcome to Piggly Wiggly – Memphis, Tennessee (1918)

Piggly Wiggly says to each and all, “Come to this wonderful store where you enter through a turnstile, where you are loaned a basket for your use while in the store, where you can see to the right side as you walk along the first aisle, hundreds of food products displayed, and on the left-hand side, hundreds of other kinds displayed.”

Antique Piggly Wiggly grocery store from 1917 (1)

Looking either at the right or the left hanging opposite each particular kind, size or assortment of any class of merchandise you will find a swinging price tag on which are some plain figures. These figures represent the exact price of the articles that are immediately behind and about the swinging price tag.

You can look at any or all of these articles displayed and you will find by looking that they are of standard and the most widely-known advertised brands of each particular kind or variety.

And so simple it is that you can just look and look and spend as much time looking as you please and you will not have to worry whether or not somebody else is in a hurry. All you have to decide is whether or not you are in a hurry.


The old Piggly Wiggly store interior

Showing entrance turnstile with small wicker shopping baskets, and check-out counter.

Antique Piggly Wiggly grocery store from 1917 (5)

Antique Piggly Wiggly grocery store from 1917 (3)


Vintage grocery store’s check out counter with cash register

You can look and select one or more or any or all articles of merchandise so displayed if that is your desire. You can look and look and examine and compare prices and after looking and looking you can look again and take all of the time that you want to take.

After you have done all of this, you can simply keep on walking throughout the four separate aisles of a Piggly Wiggly store, which leads to one exit termination by the checking desk, and there you can pass without even saying “thank you.” You can just simply pass and nobody will say anything to you.

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Antique Piggly Wiggly grocery store from 1917 (11)


Interior of this self-service grocery store

Grocery store with two turnstiles in foreground

Antique Piggly Wiggly grocery store from 1917 (7)

Antique Piggly Wiggly grocery store from 1917 (8)


The produce aisle with bins of fruits & vegetables

The fruit and vegetable stand of a Piggly Wiggly store gives you an assortment of fruits and vegetables that only the very largest market can afford to keep on display.

Antique Piggly Wiggly grocery store from 1917 (4)

ALSO SEE: 100 vintage 1960s supermarkets & old-fashioned grocery stores


Merchandise on the old shelves

Among other things, you can see sacks of granulated, Hershey’s cocoa and chocolate bars.

Antique Piggly Wiggly grocery store from 1917 (6)

Antique Piggly Wiggly grocery store from 1917 (9)


Refrigerated goods

A double-sided refrigerator is in the center of the store out of which a customer with her own hands selects butter, cheese, oleo, breakfast bacon, lard and other food items that are required to be kept under refrigeration.

At any place in a Piggly Wiggly store that you see anything you want, you have a perfect right to take with your own hands the very thing that appeals to you and which you desire to purchase.

Open the ice box with your own hands. Open the meat box with your own hands. Open the bread box with your own hands and help yourself to fruits and vegetables with your own hands, and throughout the entire store, do those things for yourself which you can best do for yourself without argument with a clerk, without persuasion from him, without quibbling over prices, without even recommendation by him as to which article is better than another.

Antique Piggly Wiggly grocery store from 1917 (10)


Vintage Piggly Wiggly shelves full of canned goods

More than one thousand different articles of merchandise are on display in a Piggly Wiggly store and you can choose from them that which you of your own mind and inclination desire to choose.

A Piggly Wiggly store is in reality a large pantry filled to overflowing to which any housewife in this city can come or to which she can send her husband, or her child, or her servant and select that which merits selection.

Antique Piggly Wiggly grocery store from 1917 (2)


Scales on top of counter & paper bags underneath

A Piggly Wiggly store by reason of its sufficiency in operation, elimination of all man-waste and food-waste, can make it possible for the people of this town to avoid money-waste.

The enormous purchasing power of the Piggly Wiggly as they co-operate with each other in the various towns in which they are now operating and which now includes those towns listed below, and which will include towns all over the world as soon as equipment can be shipped to each town, brings about a saving in buying that cannot be approached by any retail organization that has ever been possible up to date for a community to receive the benefits from.

Packages in all Piggly Wiggly stores are weighed by an automatic weighing machine without a human hand touching the contents and with absolute accuracy in weight as to pounds and ounces.

Interior view of a Piggly Wiggly self-service grocery store 1918

Everybody in this city must know that a Piggly Wiggly store belongs to them individually and collectively. A Piggly Wiggly store is to be an institution of this city. It is to be operated by men who are to live and make their homes in this city. They are to be a part of the civic uplift of this community.

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