Friday, January 11, 2008

The Early Days of Stop & Shop

Stop & Shop, a fixture on the New England retail landscape and long its dominant grocery chain, began humbly with a single store in Somerville, Massachusetts in 1914. Founded as Economy Grocery Stores by Julius Rabinovitz, the chain grew rapidly but soon began losing money. In 1920, Rabinovitz sold the business to his brother Joseph. Joseph’s son Sidney was a Harvard graduate with considerable ingenuity and marketing skills who had joined the business to assist his uncle in 1918, and soon began to implement policies that would ultimately turn the company around. (Sidney, along with his two brothers who would themselves join the company a few years later, shortened the family surname to Rabb.) In 1924, Economy became a public company and in 1930, at the ripe age of 29, Sidney Rabb was named chairman, a position he would hold for 55 years until his 1985 death.

A true innovator and visionary, Rabb implemented the low price concept long in Economy’s stores long before it became standard industry practice. The most significant innovation, however, came in 1935 with company’s introduction of the first (and Boston’s first, for that matter) self-service supermarket, called the “Stop & Shop Foodmart”, which was located on Memorial Drive in Cambridge, Massachusetts in a former factory building. The Stop & Shop name was born, although the company would formally be known as “Economy Grocery Stores” until 1946.

The photos above are in reverse chronological order, showing first a typical late 1930’s Stop & Shop (“hamburg”, scallops and clams – how New England can you get?), secondly the company’s first supermarket, as mentioned above, in a 1930’s photo, and lastly, one of the company’s earliest stores.


  1. Exactly how many grocery chians carried the Stop and Shop name. When I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, we occasionally used to shop at a huge grocery store called Stop and Shop that I believe was unrelated to this one as it wasn't quite for the budget minded. As an adult, I heard that in the 40s and 50s Chicago had a store called Stop and Shop as well.

  2. I'm sure there have been quite a few chains that have gone by this name, but the New England (and for many years now, New York and New Jersey)chain featured is by far the biggest and best known. They are not really considered a "discount operator" per se anymore, and would very much be the peer of a Jewel, Kroger or Safeway in terms of image.

    The other "Stop & Shop" chain that stands out in my mind was based in Northern California and had some very cool-looking 50's era stores that always featured S&H Green Stamps prominently in their signage. I don't believe they're still around.

  3. There was a Stop & Shop in Indianapolis that was briefly owned by Colonial Stores and run out of their Alber's operation in Cincinnati.

    The Cleveland Stop-n-Shop was a voluntary co-op that started in the 50s. They sold high end items, but their pricing was always comparable to or lower than major chains.

    There also was a second Stop & Shop cooperative east of Cleveland that was a group of rather small independent stores in small towns and cities like Madison, Geneva, Conneaut, & Ashtubula. They lasted through the 70s.

  4. I remember my parents used to shop at a Stop and Shop that wasn't far from Brunswick, Ohio as they had friends who lived there.

    I guess the Stop and Shop name is sort of like the Eagle name, many different individual chains with the same or similar names.

  5. Can you tell us the exact locations of the stores in the first and third photos? I'd also like to know where their original Somerville store was located. Thanks.

    1. Hi Ron, did you ever find the answer to this? I am researching my house in Ball Square, and I know that the original owner - Henry A. Gannett was a grocery clerk who managed the business. In 1908, his business was located at 151 Boston Ave. Could this be him? I know he lived in Ball Square until 1950 so this photo could have been taken anytime in that range. Where did this photo come from? Possible there was something written on the back?

  6. Ron - Unfortunately, I don't have that information. Maybe someone from that area can help us?

  7. My Grandfather worked for Mr. Sidney (as did my dad and myself at one time (Bradlees), three generations of S&S employees). But I digress…

    As I recall the family oral history… Leo Hart (grandfather) was the Store Manager at the Memorial Drive store. I don’t believe it was the factory store. At some point S&S had constructed a classic 15/20,000 square foot (supermarket) store somewhere between Cambridge St And Mass Ave, on Memorial Dr. Leo and Alice lived a block removed from Memorial Dr. on Putnam Ave in Cambridge. Grandmother owned a multi family building, which is my first memory of living someplace.

    As a child (1950‘s), I recall seeing the Memorial Dr. store as a S&S. Several years ago I was driving down Memorial Dr. and passed the building I recalled. However, then it was (then) a Staples store.