Unusually, it was founded in 1938 as a grocery store in Greenbelt, Maryland, which became the Greenbelt Cooperative in 1940. The cooperative grew to include a gas station and furniture store. In 1984, the board of directors sold the grocery store and gas operations to concentrate on its Scan division. The grocery store remains a cooperative called the Greenbelt Consumers Cooperative.
On December 24, 2007, SCAN filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, according to a report in the Baltimore Business Journal. Its sales dropped $25 million to $17 million from 2005 to 2007, according to court papers filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Baltimore. The retailer cited declining revenue and an inability to borrow money as factors in its filing.