Bernard Kroger

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Bernard Kroger
Bernard Henry Kroger

(1860-01-24)January 24, 1860
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
DiedJuly 21, 1938(1938-07-21) (aged 78)
Cape Cod, Massachusetts, U.S.
Resting placeSpring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati
39°09′52″N 84°31′22″W / 39.164559°N 84.522672°W / 39.164559; -84.522672
OccupationGrocer, 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.

Early life[edit]

Kroger was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the fifth of ten children of German immigrants John Henry and Mary Gertrude (née Schlebbe) Kroger.[1] 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.[2] 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.

Grocery career[edit]

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[3] ruined the store and the partners opened another.[4][5][6]

Early B. H. Kroger & Co. newspaper ad

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.[4] 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.[7] He advertised extensively in local papers, which he thought led to his success.[8]

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.[4] Kroger is credited with the creation of the successful low-cost grocery chain model that persists today.[9]

Kroger sold the company to a Wall Street banking syndicate headed by Lehman Brothers in December, 1927. He resigned as president of the Kroger Co. on January 31, 1928.[10][11]

Kroger ran his business with a simple motto: “Be particular. Never sell anything you would not want yourself.”[12]

Banking entrepreneur[edit]

In 1900, Kroger invested in the creation of Provident Savings Bank and Trust.[13] 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).[3]

Charitable efforts[edit]

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.[3]

Death and burial[edit]

Having suffered "ill health for a number of years",[3] Kroger died of a heart attack on July 21, 1938, at his summer home at Wianno, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, at the age of 78.[14] He was buried in Cincinnati's Spring Grove Cemetery.[6]


  1. ^ Hallett, Anthony; Hallett, Diane (1997). Entrepreneur Magazine Encyclopedia Of Entrepreneurs. Wiley Books. ISBN 9780471175360.
  2. ^ Charles F. Philips. "A History of the Kroger Grocery and Baking Company" in National Marketing Review, Vol. 1, No. 3 (Winter 1936), p. 204
  3. ^ a b c d "Kroger Rites Will be Held in Cincinnati". Dayton Daily News. Dayton, Ohio. July 22, 1938. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c "Depression, Flood, Disaster Marked Early Days of Kroger Grocery and Baking Company". Dayton Daily News. Dayton, Ohio. March 21, 1933. Retrieved August 20, 2020.
  5. ^ "First Kroger Opened 90 Years Ago". Times Daily. August 26, 1973. Archived from the original on December 9, 2015. Retrieved November 28, 2015.
  6. ^ a b "Barney Kroger". NNDB. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
  7. ^ "Fifteen Groceries in Dayton Absorbed by the Kroger Co". Dayton Daily News. Dayton, Ohio. August 1, 1902. Retrieved August 20, 2020.
  8. ^ Garrison, Zachary. "Bernard Heinrich Kroger." In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 3, edited by Giles R. Hoyt. German Historical Institute. Last modified August 28, 2014.
  9. ^ "Bernard Henry "Barney" Kroger, Sr (1860-1938) -..." Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  10. ^ "Kroger Grocery Co, Likely to be Sold". The New York Times. December 6, 1927. Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  11. ^ Phillips, Charles F. (Winter 1936). "A History of the Kroger Grocery & Baking Company". National Marketing Review. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  12. ^ "The Kroger Co. - Corporate News & Info: History". Archived from the original on October 30, 2018. Retrieved October 29, 2018.
  13. ^ "Kroger Store Head is Dead". The News Messenger. Fremont, Ohio. July 22, 1938. Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  14. ^ "B. H. Kroger Dies". The New York Times. July 22, 1938. Retrieved January 21, 2009. 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.

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