Fisher Foods, Cleveland’s largest grocery chain for a major chunk of its 80-year history, was founded in 1907 as Fisher Brothers Company. The Fisher Brothers, Manning and Charles, were natives of Jersey City, New Jersey and got their start in the grocery business in New York City in the waning years of the 19th century, where Manning worked for James Butler, a grocer who owned 150 stores in the city. Eager to make their own mark in the business, the brothers set out for the greener pastures of Cleveland and opened their first store there at 4623 Lorain Avenue.
The Fishers were joined in Cleveland by Irish-born Joseph Salmon, who had also worked for Butler, and would manage that first Cleveland store. Years later, upon Manning Fisher’s death in 1931, Salmon would assume the presidency of the company. Manning’s son Ellwood would eventually take the company reins in the late thirties. The company grew quickly, to 24 stores in its first five years, then to over 120 stores by the mid-twenties, surpassing 300 stores in the decade that followed.
Like many supermarket chains, Fisher stayed in step with industry trends. The company launched self-service with their first “Master Market”, a larger (average 12,000 square foot) format that would become their standard, in October 1937. The company would build over 50 of these by the dawn of World War II. Also, as with a large number of other chains, Fisher’s consolidation move towards larger stores would lower their overall store count into the late forties and early fifties. Throughout this period, the company would restrict its market area to the greater Cleveland area, as an Elyria Chronicle-Telegram article put it, “as far west as Oberlin, as far east as Ashtabula, and as far south as Medina and Bedford”.
The photos, in reverse chronological order, are as follows: a 1956 store, unidentified location, from Chain Store Age, the second photo of a brand new Fisher Foods Master Market which opened in Elyria, Ohio in June, 1952 and last, a photo of the very first Fisher Bros. store. The latter two photos are from the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram.