King Kullen

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King Kullen Grocery Co.
Industry Retail (Grocery)
Founded August 4, 1930 Jamaica, Queens
Founder Michael J. Cullen
Headquarters Bethpage, New York
Areas served
Long Island
Key people
Co-Chairmen: Bernard D. Kennedy, Ronald Conklin
Co-Presidents and Chief Operating Officers: Brian C. Cullen, J. Donald Kennedy
Senior Vice President & Chief Merchandising Officer: Joseph W. Brown
Senior Vice President, Finance: James F. Flynn
Vice President, Construction & Maintenance: Stanley Mitchell
Vice President, Store Operations: Frank Vassallo
Revenue Increase US$ 800 million (2006)

King Kullen Grocery Co., Inc. is an American supermarket chain based on Long Island. The company is headquartered in Bethpage, New York and was founded by Michael J. Cullen on August 4, 1930.

As of 2017, the chain operates 32 locations. It is notable for its title of "America's First Supermarket" as recognized by the Smithsonian Institution.[1] King Kullen meets the criteria of America's First Supermarket because it was “the first to fulfill all five criteria that define the modern supermarket: separate departments; self-service; discount pricing; chain marketing; and volume dealing.” [2] The Food Marketing Institute has stated that King Kullen “served as the catalyst for a new age in food retailing.[3] The Super Market Institute recognizes that there is dispute regarding which store is America’s first supermarket, but “credits the modern supermarket – ‘the huge self-service, cash-and-carry, one-stop outlet with small markup, large volume, and the all-important parking lot’ – to the Great Depression and a man named Michael Cullen.”[4]


King Kullen headquarters in Bethpage.

King Kullen was founded by Michael J. Cullen, a former Kroger employee who devised the concept of the modern supermarket. While the branch manager of the Herrin, Illinois branch of the Kroger Grocery & Baking Company stores, managing 94 small stores,[5] Cullen wrote a six-page letter to John Bonham, a Kroger vice-president, proposing a new type of food store with a focus on low prices, cash sales, and without delivery service, in larger stores (at low rents) with ample parking. He described what he envisioned as “monstrous stores, size of same to be about forty feet wide and hundred and thirty to a hundred and sixty feet deep, and they ought to be located one to three blocks off the high rent district with plenty of parking space, and same to be operated as a semi-self-service store – twenty percent service and eighty percent self-service.”[6] In his proposal, Cullen suggested that this new type of store could achieve 10 times the volume and profits of the average Kroger or A&P, making Kroger "the greatest chain grocery concern on the face of the earth."

After Cullen's letter went unanswered, he resigned and moved with his wife Nan and their children to Long Island, where he launched his concept. Cullen leased a vacant garage at 171-09 Jamaica Avenue, on the corner of 171st Street and Jamaica Avenue in Jamaica (Queens), near a busy shopping district. The store, named "King Kullen", opened on August 4, 1930. After an over 80 year presence in New York City, King Kullen left that market in 2011 with the sale of its 3 remaining New York City stores in Eltingville, Graniteville, and Greenridge on Staten Island.[7]

Very soon after opening the first King Kullen, customers came from 100 miles away to shop there.[8] The first store was ten times larger than the Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company stores in the market.[9] The second store was opened a few miles away from the first store, on Jamaica Avenue in Bellaire, Queens. Within two years of opening, the company operated eight stores. The early stores were 5200 to 6400 square feet big. Within 6 years of opening, King Kullen had 15 locations. By 1952, King Kullen had 30 stores, ranging in size from 10,000 to 15,000 square feet.[10]

Cullen died in April 1936 at the age of 52, from peritonitis following an appendectomy.[11] His widow Nan took over King Kullen, becoming Chairman of the Board. She was joined by her sons James A. Cullen (then 24) and John B. Cullen (then 15).

1937: King Kullen stores begin supplying customers with shopping carts.

1950s: conveyor belts, air conditioning, automatically opening exterior doors, tile floors (easier to clean than wood), and in-store music systems introduced

1960s: King Kullen begins stocking non-food items

1966: King Kullen purchases the nine-store Blue Jay grocery chain

1969: King Kullen buys Hinsch Produce Co.

1982: King Kullen introduces in-store bakeries

King Kullen remains owned and operated by the Cullen family, with second, third and fourth generation family members working for the Company. During the 1980s, former New York City Councilman Jack Muratori served as a King Kullen Board member.[12]

In 1995, King Kullen opened Wild by Nature, an independent subsidiary. Wild by Nature is a grocery store marketed as selling wholesome, natural products. Wild by Nature has five locations (Setauket, Huntington, Hampton Bays, Oceanside and West Islip).[13]


Supermarket News ranked King Kullen No. 75 in the 2007 "Top 75 North American Food Retailers" based on 2005–06 fiscal year estimated sales of $800 million.[14]


Exterior of the King Kullen store in North Babylon

King Kullen operates 32 locations on Long Island, in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.[15]

Nine King Kullen stores operate full-service pharmacy departments,[16] with online refills available.[17]

Four King Kullen locations offer online grocery shopping, with delivery and pickup.[18] King Kullen delivers groceries to most of Nassau County, many parts of Suffolk County (including Fire Island), and some neighborhoods in Queens.


- King Kullen's first headquarters was established at its second store, on Jamaica Avenue in Bellaire, Queens. The offices were located in the northwest corner of the store, in a converted garage.

- 1940: a combination warehouse/office was built at 178-02 Liberty Avenue, Queens (warehouse on ground level; offices on upper floor)

- 1961: King Kullen builds a 95,000 square foot warehouse on Prospect Avenue in Westbury, New York, and moves the Liberty Avenue Headquarters to this location.[19]

- May 2000: King Kullen moves its corporate headquarters from 1194 Prospect Avenue, Westbury to a three-story building at 185 Central Avenue, Bethpage, New York.


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