Harris Teeter is an American supermarket chain. They’re well known in the Southern Atlantic states. If you’re not from this region then you may not have heard of them, but they’re one of the more popular grocery retailers within the scope of their reach. We were interested in learning more about Harris Teeter Supermarkets, Inc., and we made some interesting discoveries that we want to share. Here are 20 things about Harris Teeter that you probably didn’t know.
1. Harris Teeter was founded in 1950
The founders of the Harris Teeter Supermarket chain was William Thomas Harris and Willis L. Teeter. These two entrepreneurs had each opened different businesses in Charlotte, North Carolina during the era of the Great Depression. Teeter was the owner of Teeters Food Mart and Harris was the owner of Harris Drugs. The two men got together and decided to merge the two businesses into one to give their shoppers a more convenient way to pick up their groceries and their pharmaceutical necessities at the same time.
2. Harris Drugs was the first in North Carolina to let customers take their groceries down from the shelves
Several decades ago, grocery and drug stores were operated much differently than they are now. In the old days, the grocery clerks were given a shopping list and they were the ones who make the grocery selections for the customers. While this was supposed to e a service that made shopping more convenient for customers, it really wasn’t as satisfying as the way that shopping is done now. Were all free to choose our own items from the shelves of the grocery and drug stores, with the exception of prescription only items. Harris was the first to encourage customers to pick their own grocery items from the shelves. This was almost revolutionary at the time and it signaled a change in the way that the grocery business would operate.
3. The Harris Store was the first in other aspects
In addition to customers having the freedom to help themselves to grocery items, the Harris store was the first in the state to add air conditioning for the comfort of their shoppers and their workers. They were also the first to keep later hours. Traditionally, most grocery stores closed shop at 5 pm, but the Harris store stayed open until 9 pm. This made it much easier for people who had to work into the evening to go to the grocery store after work.
4. Harris borrowed the money to open the first Harris Super Market
The forerunner to the Harris Teeter Supermarket chain was actually Harris’ first supermarket. He opened the market in 136 from funds that he had borrowed to get the operation going. The items that were stocked on the shelves at this time were mainly dry goods. The store was opened prior to the use of refrigeration and freezers in grocery stores. It was certainly a different age back then.
5. Harris Teeter changed owners in 2014
An announcement was made in July of 2013 that the Kroger Company had plans to acquire Harris Teeter Supermarkets Inc. They closed the deal in January of 2013, but the chain was allowed to retain its original name. The Harris Teeter brand was preserved as it was when the company was purchased and it was allowed to operate with business as usual. They even maintained their same headquarters which was located in Matthews, North Carolina. Harris Teeter became a subsidiary of the Kroger Company.
6. The first Teeter store was opened in 1939
Just as the first Harris store was a forerunner of the famous Harris Teeter brand, so was the first Teeter store. Willis Teeter was an employee of A&P. He borrowed the fund to open Teeter’s Food Mart in the same location that A&P was located at when they closed their doors. A&P leased the property to Teeter and his brother Paul. The very first Teeter store was opened in July of 1939, just six years after Harris had opened his first store.
7. The first Teeter store was a big success
One of the reasons that the first Teeter store was such a big hit in North Carolina was their business philosophy. The family run business operated the store by the Golden Rule. They treated all of their customers as they would want to be treated. Customers were very happy with the customer service that they received including the home delivery of groceries and the high quality of the good that were purchased. This brought in a very good revenue stream that allowed the Teeters to open a larger store location in 1946 because the store simply wasn’t large enough to meet the customer’s demands.
8. The Teeters opened more stores
The second store location that the Teeter family opened was in Lincolnton, North Carolina. They opened their third location in Newton, NC in 1957. Between this time and November of 1958, there were a total of six Teeter stores opened in North Carolina with new stores in Morganton, Cornelius and Hickory.
9. Harris was a dairy farmer
Harris was able to stock the dairy products in his supermarket from his own farm. He named the brand Vernedale after his wife LaVerne. He was responsible for pioneering the very first ever dairy co-op in the area he lived in. He successfully managed the co-op for years before selling it to Pet Dairy. Like Teeter’s store, Harris’ business was also family owned and operated in its early years.
10. The janitor recommended expanding past grocery items
It was Donald Thomas Harris, the son of Mr. Harris who was employed at the store to sweep floors, who first suggested that the company should expand its line of products beyond groceries. He recommended that they should carry kitchen items, tools, bake ware, beauty and health aids, school supplies, seasonal items and more. Don’s dad found favor with the suggestion and promptly put him in charge of running that division of the store.
11. Donald Thomas Harris was the last family member in HT Stores
Here is a fun fact that we learned about Harris Teeter Supermarkets. We found out that the very last member of the Harris family to work at Harris Teeter was Donald Thomas Harris, the son of one of the co-founders. He started out in the department that his father told him to run, and he remained with the company until 1995, when he retired from the business. This was truly the end of an era and it was a natural part of the evolution of the large supermarket chain.
12. Harris’s cared about the community
The Harris’s were a wealthy family because of their tremendous success in the retail grocery store industry. They did a lot for the community. One of the most notable things that they were able to accomplish was to ensure that a kindergarten was created within the South Carolina public schools. They cared about education and ensuring that everyone had access to a worthwhile education. They also assisted with the transformation of Charleston College into the College of Charleston.
13. Harry the Happy Dragon is the store’s mascot
Harris Teeter Stores has a mascot and he is Harry the Happy Dragon. The store first brought him on board in 1992. Their official slogan is “Your Neighborhood Food Market.” This slogan replaces their old one that you can still see in some stores which is “The Best Is What We’re All About.” The store also has a jingle called “My Harris Teeter” which is a slogan put to music that began in 2004.
14. The store has received recognition
The Harris Teeter Supermarket chain has received recognition and honors for their great service to customers. They were named to the list of the Top 75 Retailers & Wholesalers” in the thirty fourth position in 2012 by Supermarket News. This distinction was made because of their $4.3 billion in sales for the 2011 fiscal year. The chain is in operation in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware as well as the District of Columbia.
15. Teeter and Harris met at a North Carolina Food Dealers Association
The two business owners met for the first time at a meeting for Food Dealers in the state. After some discussion and getting to know one another, they decided that they could create a larger chain of supermarkets by merging their two businesses together. This helped to decrease the operating costs for them both and to realize higher revenues. The merger of the fifteen stores took place in 1960 after a few months of negotiations and getting the legal aspects of their merger in order. This is when they officially became Harris Teeter Supermarkets, Inc. The merger made them the largest independent grocery chain within the Carolinas.
16. Harris Teeter was sold in 1969
Harris Teeter Supermarkets, Inc changed hands n 1969. This was the first time that the company had been sold from its original founding owners. They were bought by a company based in Charlotte that was known as Ruddick Corporation, a holding company. This would be the first time in the history of the supermarket chain that they would sell alcoholic beverages. Prior to this, it was not allowed because of Harris’ Southern Baptist faith and his beliefs that selling alcohol was not morally acceptable. The new owners also expanded the chain yet further.
17. Harris Teeter engaged in a competition in 1970
One of their biggest competitors in the 1970s was Colonial Stores Big Star which was a discount chain. They also faced stiff competition from the A&Ps WEO. The stores were located in neighborhoods with working class people and Harris Teeter remained in upper class neighborhoods. Harris Teeter introduced their Big M discount as a concept that could compete with the other chains. By 1976, the two chains were merged into Teeter Harris/More Value in 1979.
18. Harris Teeter acquired Hunter Farms Dairy in 1980
As most large chains do, Harris Teeter was busy making acquisitions of companies that would help to increase their bottom line and lower costs. They purchased Hunter Farms Dairy which was established in High Point, North Carolina. This allowed the chain to lower the costs of dairy products by a wide margin. The dairy products which were sold through Harris Teeter were branded as Harris Teeter and Hunter Farms brands which came solely from the Hunter dairy. In addition to operating as a subsidiary of Harris Teeter, Hunter Farms continues to distribute dairy products to other organizations including Wendy’s Frosty, Lowe’s Foods private label ice creams, to schools and to convenience stores.
19. Harris Teeter acquired Food World stores
Harris Teeter was still purchasing new companies in 1984. They purchased many of the Food World stores in the Greensboro area. The store that they purchased had previously been aligned with the giant Piggly Wiggly chain. Harris Teeter made another large purchase in 1988 when they acquired Big Star Supermarkets which placed their stores in the Raleigh Durham area. This marked a significant period of expansion for the supermarket chain and they were moving into areas where they had not previously had representation. They held fast to their model of placing their stores in higher class urban neighborhoods.
20. They were one of the first stores to use plastic grocery bags
Here is a fun fact that we didn’t know about Teeter Harris. They were one of the first grocery chains to start using plastic grocery bags vs the old paper ones that were previously popular. They also were among the first grocers to install child restraint belts into their shopping carts. They also tried something new since they were located in upper class neighborhoods. For a period of time, they imported fresh Truffles from France and the price was an unbelievable $300 per pound. They didn’t continue this product for long, but it was a good experiment. They were known for their innovations and for being the first to implement a great variety of conveniences for their customers.