Bernard Henry Kroger
January 24, 1860
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
|Died||July 21, 1938 (aged 78)|
Cape Cod, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Resting place||Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati|
|Occupation||Grocer, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist|
Bernard Henry Kroger (January 24, 1860 – July 21, 1938) was an American businessman who created the Kroger chain of supermarkets. Kroger was a pioneering grocery innovator who introduced self-service shopping to the public in 1916. He allowed customers to enter his stores, shop, and bring the merchandise home themselves instead of waiting for a delivery. Kroger pioneered in-store bakery and meat counters. Kroger grocery stores were the first in the country to sell freshly baked goods, meat, and groceries under the same roof.
Kroger was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the fifth of ten children of German immigrants John Henry and Mary Gertrude (née Schlebbe) Kroger. Kroger's family lived above the dry goods store his parents owned. Due to the 1873 economic downturn Kroger's parents had to close the failing store. Kroger went to work at age thirteen to help support his family. He quit his first job in a drug store because his Christian mother objected to his working Sundays. He then worked as a farmhand near Pleasant Plain, Ohio, before contracting malaria and coming home.
Kroger then began working as a door-to-door salesman for the Great Northern and Pacific Tea Co., eventually ending up at the Imperial Tea Co. The grocery was not doing well, and the two owners made Kroger a manager. Kroger turned the failing grocery around, earning the store a $3,100 (equivalent to $80,362 in 2020) profit. When the owners later refused to make Kroger a partner, he invested his life savings of $372 with a partner who had borrowed $350, opening a grocery store at 66 Pearl Street in downtown Cincinnati. The unexpected overnight flood of 1884 ruined the store and the partners opened another.
Kroger advertised the partnership stores as "B.H. Kroger & Co., proprietors of The Great Western Tea Co". The stores succeeded despite numerous growing pains. Wanting greater control over his efforts, Kroger asked his partner to buy his share in the partnership for $1,000. His partner couldn't afford the offer and agreed to sell his share to Kroger for $1,500. Kroger renamed the company "Kroger Grocery and Baking Co.", and opened four separate locations within two years. Later the company shortened the name to "Kroger".
In 1902, Kroger began an acquisition program, buying 14 Dayton, Ohio grocery stores from the Cincinnati Grocery Co. He advertised extensively in local papers, which he thought led to his success.
By the end of the 1920s, Kroger had acquired and opened over 5,500 stores. A pioneer in combining grocery stores with a bakery, Kroger later added formerly stand-alone meat markets to his retail grocery store concept. Kroger is credited with the creation of the successful low-cost grocery chain model that persists today.
Kroger ran his business with a simple motto: “Be particular. Never sell anything you would not want yourself.”
In 1900, Kroger invested in the creation of Provident Savings Bank and Trust. He was named president of the bank and later sold his holdings in the bank in 1928, shortly before the Wall Street Crash of 1929. During a bank crisis in 1933, he converted $15 million of his savings into cash and displayed it at the bank to demonstrate the financial soundness of the bank, averting the crisis locally. Kroger was chairman of the board of the bank at the time of his death.
Kroger also served as director of the Cincinnati branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and as president and director of the First Bank of Palm Beach (Florida).
Kroger was also involved in many charitable ventures, including the opening of parks, donations to zoos, and medical research. His charitable interests included the Charles Fleischmann Endowment Fund, the Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts, the Cincinnati Bureau of Governmental Research, the Community Chest and the Council of Social Agencies.
Death and burial
Having suffered "ill health for a number of years", Kroger died of a heart attack on July 21, 1938, at his summer home at Wianno, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, at the age of 78. He was buried in Cincinnati's Spring Grove Cemetery.
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Founder of Business Made Up of 4,844 Stores Succumbs to a Heart Attack. Once Lost Everything in Ohio River Flood. Cincinnatian Also a Philanthropist. Operated 4,844 Stores. Bernard H. Kroger, who founded the Kroger Grocery and Baking Company, died tonight of a heart attack at his Summer home at Wianno, Mass., on Cape Cod. He was 78 years old.
- Horstman, Barry M. (June 17, 1999). "Barney Kroger: Hard work, marketing savvy won shoppers". The Cincinnati Post. Archived from the original on December 6, 2005.