Fact Friday 62 - Harris Teeter's 704 Roots

Fact Friday 62 - Harris Teeter's 704 Roots

Happy Friday everyone!

As a kid growing up in Charlotte, I remember when Kroger was the big dog on campus. Over the years, like most of you, I’ve shopped at lots of different grocery stores…Food Lion, Bi-Lo, Lowes Foods, Publix, Whole Foods, etc., but I have to say that Harris Teeter is my personal favorite…although Lowes Foods seems to be pretty similar in aesthetics, and thus is my close second. But did you know that the HT giant that we know today sewed its first seeds right here in the 704? Read on!

In 1936, William Thomas (W.T.) Harris borrowed $500 from First Union to open his first grocery store in Charlotte, NC on Central Avenue (now known as Store #201). He was a pioneer in the grocery industry, opening his first supermarket in 1936 that was the first to feature air-conditioning and remain open until 9 p.m. on Friday nights. This allowed working men and women to grocery shop in the evenings. Sales soared as people could come by after getting their weekly paychecks and buy groceries. Later, he expanded the store to include a full-service drugstore called Harris Drugs. In later years, he sold these drugstores to Mr. Jack Eckerd, and they became Eckerd drugstores.

The first Harris Food Store on Central Avenue in 1936. 

Meanwhile, Willis Lee (W.L.) Teeter and his brother, Paul G. (aka Bill), borrowed $1,700 to open their first Teeter's Food Mart in Mooresville, NC, in 1939. After humble beginnings coupled with quick growth and expansion, the Teeters were the first to install automatic doors and check-outs in North Carolina.

W.L. (left) with his first and lifelong business partner, his brother, Bill (right). 

This Mooresville Ice Cream Company display case, as pictured at the Teeter Food Mart in Mooresville, NC, provided the widest selection of DeLuxe Ice Cream products available in 1954. The Teeters often sampled products for customers; Gail Lowrance offered samples of the locally-produced ice cream to customers in Teeter Food Mart.

The two young, prospering companies first combined efforts in 1958 when they pooled their buying efforts and storage facilities. On February 1, 1960, Harris Super Markets and Teeter's Food Marts officially merged to form Harris Teeter Super Markets, Inc. There were already 15 stores in operation. The first "Harris Teeter" store to open under the new banner was in Kannapolis, NC.

W.L. (left) and W.T. (right) pictured together in the Mooresville Tribune October 15, 1959. 

Within three years after the merger, 25 stores were in operation. A new, larger warehouse with office facilities was opened. Harris Teeter further expanded its marketing area by purchasing five supermarkets from Tilman's Grocery of Shelby, NC, and two independent grocery stores, one in Charlotte and one in Gastonia.

In 1969 Harris Teeter was purchased by the Ruddick Corporation of Charlotte, NC, a holding company traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Mergers & Acquisitions

In 1984, Food World, a successful supermarket chain headquartered in Greensboro, NC, was purchased by Ruddick and merged with Harris Teeter. Food World was started in 1917 by George E. Hutchens of High Point, NC. Food World's market covered much of central North Carolina and parts of Virginia. The merger increased Harris Teeter's coverage to four states and 7,000 associates, making it the second largest food chain in the Carolinas. Food World added 52 stores, a distribution center and nearly 3,000 associates to Harris Teeter.

In 1988, Harris Teeter purchased 52 super-markets operating under the Big Star name and a warehouse from the Grand Union Company. In 1990, Harris Teeter acquired Borden Dairy Plant which, in conjunction with Harris Teeter's Hunter Dairy, greatly increased dairy product production. Harris Teeter also purchased a 97,000 square-foot building in Matthews, NC, and moved its corporate offices to that location. In 1993, Harris Teeter purchased five South Carolina Bruno stores. This acquisition substantially increased Harris Teeter's share in this growing market.

Distribution Centers

A 550,000 square-foot non-perishable distribution and transportation facility is located in Greensboro, NC, along with a 139,000 square-foot freezer operation that opened in March 1991. Perishable products are handled at a 300,000 square-foot distribution facility 12 miles east of Charlotte at Indian Trail, NC.

Recently, a new perishable facility was completed in Greensboro and a non-perishable facility was added at the Indian Trail location.

It was announced on July 9, 2013, that Kroger would buy Harris Teeter for $2.4 billion in cash. The company became a subsidiary of Kroger and continued to operate under the Harris Teeter brand. The merger closed on January 29, 2014, upon which chairman Thomas Dickson announced his retirement. The deal represents a return of sorts to the Charlotte market for Kroger; it had previously operated stores under its own moniker in Charlotte from 1977 to 1988. It also allowed Kroger to enter Asheville. Charlotte and Asheville had been the only large markets in the Carolinas where Kroger had no presence.

Today, Harris Teeter operates over 230 stores and five fuel centers in seven states and the District of Columbia, employs over 25,000 employees* and rakes in over $4.5 billion in revenues.*

*2012 data

To read more about the true pioneering of W.T. and W.L. in the grocery industry and in the community, and just how much they had in common, including both working at A&P supermarkets before following their passion and becoming entrepreneurs, click here!


Until next week!




Email me at chris@704Shop.com if you have interesting Charlotte facts you’d like to share or just to provide feedback!


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“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass

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