A&P Timeline

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1859 -  The Great American Tea Company was founded as a mail order business by tea and spice merchants George Huntington Hartford and George Gilman.

The first store-warehouse operation opened in New York City at 31 Vesey Street.

1860s -  The Company expanded, opened 10 more stores along the Eastern Seaboard.

Mail order business grew, with deliveries made using horse-drawn wagons.

The Great American Tea Company became one of the country's leading advertisers, placing ads in the most widely read publications of the times - religious weeklies- with a readership composed primarily of tea drinkers.

1870s -  In 1870, the Company was renamed The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company in honor of the completion of the coast-to-coast, transcontinental railroad.

A&P shipped large food donations and sent a small staff to Chicago to help residents after the "great fire" of 1871. As many as 250 people perished in the fire and nearly 17,000 buildings were destroyed.

After the fire, A&P built stores in the city and established itself in America's heartland.

With 75 stores in operation, George Gilman retired in 1878.

1880s -  A&P employed peddlers who drove horse-drawn wagons covering 5,000 delivery routes throughout Company territories.

In 1881, A&P became the first grocery chain to operate 100 stores.

In 1880, George Hartford's son, George L. Hartford, entered the business as chief casher at age 15. With the public's taste for coffee having grown rapidly, A&P established its own brand, packaged in a red bag. George Huntington Hartford named the product Eight O'Clock Breakfast Coffee - the time of the day that he believed the most coffee was consumed.

A&P reached $1 million in sales in 1887. At the suggestion of 22 year-old George L. Hartford, the Company began marketing its own brand of baking powder. This became the first private label item manufactured by the Company. A&P also pioneered the use of refrigerated railroad cars to transport fruit, and became the first to bring fresh seafood to the Midwest.

In 1888, George Hartford's younger son, John A. Hartford, joined the Company at age 16.

1890s -  A&P introduced premium "checks" to be redeemed for cups, saucers and other goods.
1900s -  A&P was incorporated in New Jersey in 1900, entered the new millennium with nearly 200 stores doing $6 million in sales.

Canning operations for A&P brand tomatoes and pears were established.

In 1907, A&P moved its corporate headquarters from lower Manhattan to Jersey City, N.J., the site of the Eight O'Clock roasting plant, where the Company remained for 20 years.

1910s -  In 1912, John Hartford convinced his father and brother to launch the economy store - a limited assortment, cash and carry, no frills format. The concept flourished, beginning an extraordinary period of development in which A&P grew from about 350 stores in 1910 to 4,638 in 1920.

George Huntington Hartford died in 1917.

Meat markets were added to the A&P stores in 1919 and the American Coffee Corporation was organized.

1920s -  A&P grew from 4,638 stores doing $235 million in sales in 1920, to 15,418 stores doing $1 billion in 1929.

A product testing laboratory for quality control was introduced in the early 1920s.

In 1925, the Company reorganized into five separate divisions; a sixth is added the following year.

The A&P Premium Catalog boasted over 60 pages of items that could be obtained with savings coupon "checks". For example, if you purchased a 50-cent can of baking powder, you received 10 checks.

In 1924, The A&P Radio Hour became America's first national radio program.

A&P moved its headquarters to the Graybar building in 1927.

George L. Hartford's conservative financial policies preserved A&P's stability after the 1929 stock market crash.

Single-year lease commitments, minimal real estate ownership, dispersal of funds among many banks and portable store equipment configurations minimized the Depression's impact on the Company. Thus A&P maintained low price structure, and grew sales in 1930 to $1.07 billion, despite nationwide drop in per capita food spending.

1930s -  A&P grew to 15,737 stores and sales of more than $1 billion, and expanded into California, Washington and Canada.

The Company continued to expand its private label business, with its Quaker Maid factories produced canned goods and other pantry items; its Nakat Packing Corporation harvested and canning salmon, and its Jane Parker Bakeries produced baked goods.

In 1933, A&P participated in the World's Fair in Chicago. Housed in a 2,000 seat amphitheater, the A&P Carnival drew thousands of visitors with the A&P Marionette Revue, Harry Horlick and the A&P Gypsies and other entertainment. Other A&P attractions included a canopied boardwalk where tea dances were held, and free tea and coffee samples were distributed.

1936 marked the opening of A&P's first "supermarket," a 28,125- square-foot store in Braddock, Pa.

In 1937, A&P introduced Woman's Day magazine through a wholly- owned subsidiary, The Stores Publishing Company. The magazine featured articles on food preparation, home decoration, needlework and childcare, sold for 2 cents a copy.

The A&P Radio Hour gained popularity in the 1930s. Featured artists included Harry Horlick and the A&P Gypsies and Kate Smith.

Eight O'Clock coffee became the best-selling brand of coffee in the world. From 1939 through 1941, coffee achieved profits greater than all its A&P retail stores combined.

1940s -  A&P consolidated its business from smaller Economy Stores to larger supermarkets, reducing the store count from 7,250 in 1940 to 4,682 in 1949, while nearly tripling sales from 1.1 billion in 1940 to 2.9 billion in 1949.

Sold exclusively in A&P stores, Woman's Day magazine's circulation reaches 3 million in 1944.

A&P expanded its merchandising by introducing self-service meat and frozen food departments, and promoted bakeries as "stores within the store."

Management established regional training centers to sharpen new employees' skills in merchandising, product handling and operations.

1950s -  Upon John A. Hartford's death in 1951, Ralph Burger was appointed President, a role he would hold until 1962. He added the title of Chairman in 1958.

George L. Hartford, the last active management member of the founding family, died in 1957.

A&P became a publicly traded Company, although the Hartford Family Foundation maintained the majority investment.

With a circulation of 4 million, A&P sold Woman's Day to an independent publisher.

In 1958, sales grew to $5 billion in 4,252 stores. A&P topped the industry, with volume exceeding that of its closest competitor by more than $1 billion.

A&P celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1959.

1960s -  In 1960, A&P operated 4,351 stores in 37 states, the District of Columbia and Canada. But sales and profitability began to decline, as competitors followed consumers to growing suburban markets with large, new stores.

With its new Plaid Stamps redemption program in 1963, A&P brought back the premium concept originally introduced in the early 1900s. Shoppers received plaid-colored stamps with every purchase, which were later redeemed for popular household items.

A&P's continuing emphasis on private label marketing lost consumer support, as the growth of national television advertising drove increasing customer demand for national brand products.

Despite that trend, in 1965 A&P completed construction of a 1,500,000 square-foot private label manufacturing plant in Horseheads, N.Y., at a cost of over $25 million. It was (at the time) the largest food manufacturing and processing facility in the world.

Due to poor sales and strong independent competition, A&P withdrew from California in the late 1960s.

1970s -  A&P opened a warehouse store, in May 1971, and called it WEO (Warehouse Economy Outlet). This low-price warehouse concept was rolled out to 1500 stores and featured displays of fast-selling grocery items in the original cases.

In 1974, A&P relocated headquarters from Manhattan's Graybar Building to suburban Montvale, N.J.

Ongoing losses prompted management changes, which along with a restructuring program in the mid through late 1970s, resulted in a contraction of the chain from 4,427 to 1,542 stores. Profitability was restored temporarily, but declined again due to low sales growth, high costs and aggressive competition in key markets.

After more than a decade of decline, in 1979 the Hartford Foundation and family members sold majority of A&P shares to The Tengelmann Group of West Germany.

1980s -  In 1980, the new board of directors elected James Wood, former Chief Executive of The Grand Union Company, as Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer of A&P.

From 1980 through 1982, management shuttered operations in several markets, closing hundreds of older stores and the majority of manufacturing operations, including the Horseheads, N.Y. facility.

Beginning a new growth via acquisition strategy in 1981, the Company purchased 17 Stop & Shop supermarkets in New Jersey, the first time A&P had ever acquired stores from competition.

In 1982, the smaller and reorganized A&P, with fewer than 1,000 stores, returned to profitability.

In 1982, the Company also launched the Super Fresh banner in its Philadelphia division. Emphasizing product freshness and strong customer service, the banner expanded outward from Philadelphia.

In its first major acquisition, A&P purchased Wisconsin-based Kohl's Food Stores in 1983.

In 1985, A&P Canada acquired 92 Dominion stores, including two warehouses and an office complex.

"We Built a Proud New Feeling" became the Company's slogan throughout the 1980s. An electronic advertisement, prominently positioned high above New York City's Times Square, heralded the message below a giant A&P logo.

In 1986, A&P acquired the Bronx, N.Y.-based Shopwell Inc., which included 26 upscale stores named The Food Emporium.

The Company further expanded in New York with the acquisition of Waldbaum's, Inc. in the fall of 1986.

In 1987, A&P created an upscale store-brand program under the Master Choice name.

In 1989, A&P acquired the Detroit, Mich.-based Farmer Jack chain from Borman's Inc.

1990s -  Christian Haub joined A&P in 1991 as Vice President, Development & Strategic Planning and a member of the Board of Directors. In December 1992, he was elected President & Chief Operating Officer, and became Co-Chief Executive Officer in April 1997. In May of 1998, Mr. Haub succeeded James Wood as President & Chief Executive Officer.

In 1994, A&P in the U.S. launched a new private label marketing program, replacing the banner-specific labels previously sold through A&P and each of its subsidiaries. The new program introduced four new corporate brands: America's Choice, Master Choice, Health Pride and Savings Plus.

A&P Canada opened the first Food Basics, a no frills store offering every day low prices, in 1995.

In 1998, A&P launched Project Great Renewal, a comprehensive revitalization program to restore profitability and build the foundation for future growth.

2000 -  2000 - In 2000, The Food Emporium opened its unique Bridgemarket store located at 59th Street and First Avenue beneath New York City's landmark Queensborough Bridge. The site had previously been the scene of one of New York's historic open-air markets.

Christian Haub was elected Chairman of the Board in April 2001, and assumed that office on May 1, 2001.

In November 2001, A&P opened the first Food Basics Store in the U.S. in Passaic, NJ.

In October 2002, A&P management restructured the Company, established A&P U.S. and A&P Canada business units. Brian Piwek was named President & Chief Executive Officer of A&P U.S. and Eric Claus joined the Company as President and Chief Executive Officer of A&P Canada.

In 2003, in a program to reduce debt and lower operating costs, A&P exited Northern New England, sold Kohl's stores in Wisconsin, closed all remaining Kohl's operations, and sold the Eight O'Clock Coffee division.

In August 2005, The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc. sold A&P Canada to METRO INC., a supermarket and pharmaceutical operator in the Provinces of Quebec and Ontario Canada.

Eric Claus was named President and Chief Executive Office of A&P and Christian Haub became Executive Chairman responsible for the Company's long-range strategic direction as well as all public aspects of A&P.