Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Jewel Cos.
Jewel Cos.

Jewel Cos.

The Jewel Tea Co. was founded in 1899 by Frank V. Skiff and Frank Ross, who sold coffee, tea, and other groceries to Chicagoans from their wagons. By 1915, the company had 850 routes and $8 million in annual sales. In 1930, when the company had traded in its old horse-drawn vehicles for motorized ones, it moved its headquarters from Chicago to suburban Barrington. Threatened by local ordinances that prohibited uninvited door-to-door sales, the company started to open retail stores around Chicago. By 1936, it owned 100 stores, which together grossed about $20 million in annual sales. By the end of World War II, Jewel was among the 10 largest retail grocery chains in the United States. At the beginning of the 1960s, when it purchased the 30-store Osco drug chain (founded in the late 1930s by L.  L. Skaggs) and changed its own name to Jewel Cos. Inc., the company had over $500 million in annual sales and nearly 300 grocery stores. By the late 1960s, Jewel owned more 600 supermarkets in nine states and employed close to 20,000 people; it was the leading retail grocery chain in the Chicago area. In 1984, when its share of the Chicago-area grocery market was about 30 percent, Jewel was purchased by American Stores Inc. of Salt Lake City. By the end of the 1990s, when it was acquired by Albertson's Inc. (based in Boise, Idaho), Jewel had nearly 40,000 workers in the Chicago area, making it one of the leading employers in the region.