208 Redial: Tracing Albertsons’ humble Idaho beginnings

In 1998, KTVB’s Dee Sarton dug into the chain’s humble beginnings in a growing Idaho city.

BOISE, Idaho — On July 21, 1939, Joe Albertson opened up his first grocery supermarket on the corner of 16th and State streets in downtown Boise. Eighty-two years later, Albertsons is the second-largest grocery store chain in North America.

Albertsons’ original store was demolished and rebuilt in 1979. Now, a small brick monument stands on the property’s northwest corner to honor the chain’s beginnings.

In 1998, KTVB’s Dee Sarton dug into the chain’s humble beginnings in a growing Idaho city.

Joe Albertson opened his first grocery store with the help of two business partners. When the first Albertsons store opened in 1939, Boise’s population was a quaint 25,000. Now, the City of Trees is home to more than 230,000 people.

When the store first opened, the grand opening fanfare promised customers low prices, top value, free parking, convenient hours and money-back guarantees.

At the time, the store offered new, unheard services, such as an in-house bakery and double-dipped ice cream cones for a nickel. However, behind every promise was Albertson’s philosophy that he shared with KTVB before his death in 1993.

“Recognition. Carry it out to the car. ‘Come back again.’ Just a little sweet talk, but it’s well accepted by the customer,” he said.

Customers responded well to the sweet talk. By 1946, there were six Albertsons stores, with sales approaching $3 million. Albertsons became a publicly traded stock in 1959 and in 1964, the Boise-grown company opened its 100th location.

Albertsons’ total sales reached $1 billion in 1975 and the company became the sixth-largest food-drug chain in the United States in 1989 with 497 stores.

In 1998, there were 916 Albertsons stores in 23 states. Now the chain stretches 34 states and Washington D.C., with more than 2,200 locations and employing more than 270,000 people.

Albertsons merged with Safeway in 2015 for $9.2 billion.

Editor’s Note: Watch the video above for the full story.

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