With a brass band, a beauty contest, flowers for the ladies, and balloons for the children, Clarence Saunders of Memphis opened the first Piggly Wiggly, America's first completely self-service grocery store, at 79 Jefferson Avenue (1/2 block west of here) on Sept. 6, 1916. In conventional stores of that time, shoppers presented their orders to clerks who fetched goods, ground coffee beans, measured flour and sugar, and then added the bills in pencil on the back of sacks.
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At Piggly Wiggly, customers entered through a turnstile, filled their own baskets as they walked through a maze of shelves containing hundreds of products and had their bills figured by clerks with adding machines. Saunders received patents for many of his innovative designs. By 1921 his company Piggly Wiggly Corporation, had franchised stores in 200 cities in 40 states, with combined sales of $60 million. In only five years Saunders had revolutionized the U.S. grocery industry.