About King Kullen Supermarkets
Born of Irish immigrant parents in 1884, Michael J. Cullen learned about the grocery business during his early years of employment. At 18 he worked as a clerk for the Atlantic & Pacific Co., moving on to general sales manager at Mutual Grocery and Kroger Stores. His natural marketing talents, work experience observations and insight in the grocery business led to his idea for mass merchandising – selling high volume at low profit margins.
He wrote a letter to the president of Kroger, describing his ideas that would eventually revolutionize the industry, his letter went unanswered. Undaunted, and confident in his ability to see his idea become a reality, he quit his job and moved his family to Long Island.
It was there that Cullen leased a vacant garage on Jamaica Avenue in Queens, just a few blocks from a busy shopping district, and on August 4th, 1930 opened the doors to America’s first supermarket, King Kullen Grocery Company.
Success of the supermarket was instantaneous. People came from miles around. To the public, King Kullen was more than a convenience – King Kullen supermarkets meant affordable food and gained recognition as the “World’s Greatest Price Wrecker.” By 1936 there were 17 King Kullen supermarkets doing approximately $6,000,000 annually. Although Michael Cullen died suddenly, just 6 years after opening his first store, King Kullen continued to grow and expand through the leadership of his wife and the support of family members.
A positive relationship between management and employees has been one of the greatest contributors to the success of King Kullen. A leader in employee relations, King Kullen surprised the industry by providing their employees with insurance, vacation and pay raises in the late 30’s and by 1940 was firmly established as New York’s premier supermarket.
In the annals of merchandising history, Michael J. Cullen’s story stands out as one of vision, courage and tenacious perseverance. Like the best of the innovators from our nation’s past, the contributions he made to society during his lifetime continue to affect us to this day. Today, three generations later, King Kullen is still family controlled and operated, remains a leader in the supermarket industry and is recognized by the Smithsonian Institute as America’s First Supermarket. We’ve added a lot since that first store opened. Pharmacies with online refills, a large catering and prepared foods department, freshly baked breads and sweets, and healthy and organic areas in many stores. From that very first store, we now have 34 locations around Long Island, and we’re still going strong.