Rahul Sharma (Editor)

Jewel (supermarket)

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Number of locations

Jewel (supermarket) wwwjeweloscocomwpcontentuploads201407logo

Key people
Mike Withers, President

supermarkets/food-drug stores

Itasca, Illinois, United States

1899, Chicago, Illinois, United States

Albertsons, Acme Markets, MFC-Livonia Properties, Inc

Parent organizations
Albertsons, SuperValu, American Stores, New Albertson's, Inc.


Jewel-Osco is a supermarket chain headquartered in Itasca, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. Jewel-Osco has 185 stores across northern, central, and western Illinois; eastern Iowa; and portions of northwest Indiana. Jewel-Osco and Jewel are currently wholly owned subsidiaries of Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons. The company original started as a door-to-door coffee delivery service before it expanded into delivering non-perishable groceries and later into grocery stores, and supermarkets. Prior to its 1984 acquisition by American Stores, Jewel evolved into a large multi-state holding company that operated several supermarket chains and other non-food retail chain stores located from coast to coast and had operated under several different brand names.


Beginnings with home deliveries

In 1899, Frank Vernon Skiff founded Jewel in Chicago, Illinois, as a door-to-door coffee delivery service. In 1902, Skiff partnered with his brother-in-law Frank P. Ross, renaming the venture the Jewel Tea Company. By 1903, they had six routes and then 12 routes in 1904 with expansion into Michigan City, Kankakee, and Kewanee. There were 850 routes by 1915.

In 1929, the company built a new office, warehouse, and coffee roasting facility in suburban Barrington, Illinois, creating hundreds of local jobs despite the Great Depression. Area residents nicknamed the new five-story headquarters the "Gray Lady" due to its sophisticated art deco style. The Barrington location served as the headquarters and main warehouse facility for both the home delivery and food store divisions until the completion of the new warehouse and office complex at Melrose Park in 1953.

In 1949, deliveries were provided on 1876 routes in 43 states to customers mostly in small towns while customers in cities could go to 154 company owned grocery stores.

Later, the service later expanded to include 350 grocery and 10,000 general merchandise items by 1981 when Jewel decided to sell its "Jewel Home Shopping Service" division to its employees and divest itself from its roots. At the time of the divesture, the division provided service to customers in mostly small towns located along 1000 routes in 42 states. The division became a 700-member owned cooperative called "J.T.'s General Store" in which each route sales persons were independent self-employed agents.

In October 1994, a group of the company's managers acquired the assets of "J.T.'s General Store" and "created J.T. Dealers Sales and Service". By 1995, "J.T. Dealer Sales and Service" was providing service to 60,000 customers along 250 routes in 35 states.

Grocery stores

The company's expansion continued throughout the mid-20th century. In 1932, Jewel acquired the Chicago unit of the Canadian firm Loblaw Groceterias, Inc., then a chain of 77 self-service stores, as well as four Chicago grocery stores operated by the Middle West Stores Company, and began operating them under the name Jewel Food Stores. In 1934, Jewel Food Stores merged with Jewel Tea Company.

The name of the parent company remained as the "Jewel Tea Company" until 1967 when the stockholders voted to change the name of the company to Jewel Companies, Inc. to better reflect the expansion of the into different markets. In 1967, the company went public and its stock was traded on the Midwest Stock Exchange.

Eisner acquisition and expansion south

In 1957, Jewel acquired the Champaign, Illinois-based Eisner Food Stores, located in downstate Illinois and later in west central Indiana (Lafayette, West Lafayette, and Bloomington). This acquisition was significant since it was the first time Jewel maintained the new acquisition as a separate division within the Jewel organization with the acquired stores keeping their original names, setting the pattern for future acquisitions.

After Jewel's hostile takeover by American Stores in 1984, American Stores decided to save money by merging Eisner directly into Jewel, converting all stores to the Jewel name and slowly started to sell off the former Eisner properties. One of the first properties to let go was the former Eisner warehouse facility in Champaign in 1986. With the Champaign warehouse facility gone, many former Eisner locations became less profitable since they had to be serviced from the more distant Jewel warehouse at Melrose Park, justifying the elimination of those locations. The west central Indiana stores, three in Lafayette and two in Bloomington, were sold off in 1990. Jewel also closed central Illinois locations that were formerly Eisner in Decatur (in 1995), Champaign-Urbana (in 1998), and Springfield (2006).

Non-food retail expansion

In 1961, Jewel acquired two growing non-food related retail chains, Chicago-based Osco Drug stores, and Brighton, Massachusetts-based Turn Style discount department stores, to complement their food store division when building one-stop shopping destinations, such as the new Family Centers and Jewel-Osco (Eisner-Osco, Star-Osco, Buttrey-Osco) food-drug combinations. The acquisition of both Osco and Turn Style allowed Jewel to expanding into non-food related retailing that would complement their existing food retailing business and also to expand the geographic range of its main food distribution business since the non-food companies had a different geographical footprint.

Jewel expanded into the home improvement retail market by acquiring Republic Lumber in 1972.

1960s–1970s expansion

During the 1960s, Jewel expanded by acquiring several chains.

Jewel expanded their food store holdings by acquired Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Star Market in 1964 and the Great Falls, Montana-based Buttrey Food Stores in 1966 to added to their existing Jewel and Eisner food store chains.

The acquisition of Star Market also gave Jewel control of Brigham's Ice Cream, which had been a part of Star since 1961. Jewel later sold off Brigham's in 1982.

In 1965, Jewel expanded into the convenience store business by opening Kwik Shoppe, a chain that was quickly renamed White Hen Pantry within a few months.

Before 1970, Jewel stores were typically located on arterial city streets. Between 1970 and 1990, Jewel moved or expanded most of its stores to be freestanding buildings with ample parking. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Jewel built and operated many Jewel-Osco side-by-side stores, but most construction after 1983 consolidated Jewel and Osco stores together as one large store under one roof. Today, the two stores present to the customer as one unit; for instance, a customer can check out any items at Jewel or Osco registers, find Jewel and Osco merchandise commingled throughout the store, and can call one telephone number to reach their Jewel-Osco. However, each operating unit keeps its own separate marketing identity to the public as a "food store" or a "drug store."

The first Jewel-Osco food-drug combination stores were built in 1962.

Jewel opened five stores in Michigan in the 1970s, but closed all five in 1996.

In 1971, Jewel expanded their brand north into Wisconsin by acquiring eight failing stores from Kroger and rebranded the stores Jewel. After a decade of operations, Jewel closed all of their stores in Wisconsin in 1980. Those locations were sold to Sentry Foods. Jewel did not return to Wisconsin until 1998.

Until 2010, Jewel and Osco stores under the same roof have had separate operations, managers, ordering and receiving procedures, budgets, and employees. A 2010 cost-saving measure brought both Jewel and Osco oversight under one store director for each site.

In 1978, Jewel Companies, Inc. attempted to acquire Skaggs Companies, Inc. through an exchange in stock in which Jewel would have been the surviving company and still based in Melrose Park instead of Salt Lake City. A few months later, Skaggs turned down the merger offer. At that time, Skaggs had 229 stores.

After six years, Jewel suffered many losses due to failing marketing concepts and general mismanagement while Skaggs became larger and strong enough to perform a hostile take over of Jewel under its new name, American Stores.

American Stores

American Stores made an offer to acquire the Jewel Companies in 1984. The Jewel Companies, Inc. chairman Weston Christopherson was opposed to a merger and Sam Skaggs was forced to engineer a hostile takeover. On June 1, 1984, American Stores tendered an offer worth $1.1 billion for 67 percent of Jewel's outstanding shares at $70 per share.

For two weeks, Jewel's management refused all comment on the offer, maintaining its silence even at a stormy shareholder's meeting before which Jewel shareholder groups controlling 20 percent of the company's stock had come out in favor of negotiating with American Stores. Finally, on June 14, Sam Skaggs and Jewel president Richard Cline reached an agreement after an all-night bargaining session. American Stores raised its bid for Jewel's preferred stock, increasing the total bid to $1.15 billion in cash and securities. In return, Jewel dropped plans for a defensive acquisition of Household International Inc. and accepted American Stores' offer. American Stores soon sold Buttrey Food Stores (in 1990), Star Market (in 1994), and White Hen Pantry (in 1985), to pay off debt and for other reasons.

1990s expansion under American Stores

In 1989, American Stores expanded to Florida using the Jewel-Osco name, but operating as a separate division distinct from the midwest Jewel-Osco operations. The Jewel name returned to Florida five years after the company closed all of its Jewel-T discount food stores in 1984. Florida was considered a good market for Jewel because of the high number of Chicagoans who had relocated to that state. After three years of operations, American Stores closed those Jewel-Osco stores and sold them to Albertsons in 1992.

To consolidate the names of some of its subsidiaries under one title with nationwide recognition, American Stores renamed some of its Skaggs-Alpha Beta stores to Jewel-Osco in mid-September 1991. American replaced the Skaggs-Alpha Beta name with that of Jewel-Osco on all 76 stores in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arkansas, expanding the chain toward the southwestern states. Within six months, American Stores sold all of the Jewel-Osco locations in the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Florida to Albertsons but kept the locations in the state of New Mexico for a few more years.

In 1998, American Stores rebranded the Jewel-Osco stores in New Mexico to Lucky/Sav-on, a grocery store/drug store brand which American Stores had used in neighboring Arizona. After the acquisition of American Stores by Albertsons just a few months later, the New Mexico stores were rebranded again to Albertsons Sav-on in 1999.

Under American Stores, Jewel return to Wisconsin by opening a Jewel-Osco store in a new shopping center in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1995. Jewel return to Milwaukee in 1998 by purchasing a Pick 'n Save store and four Cub Foods stores and converting them into Jewel Osco stores.

In the late 1990s, Jewel purchased a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, food chain and opened fifteen Jewel-Osco combo stores in the Milwaukee metro area, some of which employed urban designs.

Albertsons and SuperValu

Albertsons acquired American Stores' holdings, including Jewel and Jewel-Osco stores, in 1999.

Seven years later, parent company Albertsons and its stores would be taken over by two separate groups. On May 30, 2006, shareholders approved the break-up of Albertsons. All Jewel-Osco and Jewel Food Stores outside of Springfield, Illinois were now wholly owned by SuperValu. The Springfield stores, meanwhile, were acquired by an investment group led by Cerberus Capital Management. Both of those have since been sold to Niemann Foods, an independent operator of grocery stores, supermarkets and convenience stores in Central Illinois which now operates them under the Cub Foods–County Market brand. All free-standing Osco drugstores are now owned by CVS Pharmacy. The Osco name is still used for pharmacies within Albertsons, Jewel, Star Market and Shaw's.

SuperValu announced on January 5, 2007, that it would offer for sale its Jewel-Osco stores in the Milwaukee area. Pick 'n Save agreed to take five of the 15 stores. Two other stores were purchased by Lena's Food Market. SuperValu announced to its workers that the remaining stores, if unsold, would close at the end of March.

In 2008, the headquarters for the Illinois-based Jewel-Osco division was moved from Melrose Park to Itasca.

Jewel Express

In 1997, Albertsons experimented by adding gas pumps and small convenience store in front one of its stores in Eagle, Idaho. Since the experiment was quite successful, Albertsons decided to expand this concept to all stores that would be able to support it and was allowed by local governmental zoning. The new concept was called Albertsons Express.

After Albertsons acquired American Stores in 1999, Albertsons wanted to expand the Albertsons Express concept to the former American Stores chains. The first Jewel Express was opened in front of a Jewel-Osco in South Elgin in October 2000.

In attempt to increase revenue in 2009, Supervalu enhanced the Express concept by enlarging the convenience store, added more marketing tie ins with the main store, and even added a car wash. This change did not help Supervalu's bottom line so in 2011 Supervalu announced that it was exiting the fuel business and that it would sell or close all fuel stations that it received when it purchased Albertsons which includes the 29 Jewel Express stations that it received. The same announcement said that 27 of the Jewel Express locations would be sold to Alimentation Couche-Tard, the parent of Circle K, and all remaining unsold locations would be closed. Some of these new Circle K locations were paired with the Shell fuel brand.

Urban Fresh

In 2008, SuperValu converted one of its closed Sunflower Market stores on Clybourn Avenue to an Urban Fresh by Jewel, a smaller store than the usual Jewel, with more upscale and organic products. It was announced that this store would close on October 31, 2009, and there are no plans to open anymore stores under this banner.

LEED certified

In October 2008, Jewel-Osco opened its first LEED certified store at Kinzie & Des Plaines in Chicago. This new store was built with recycled materials and recycled 98% of its construction debris. It features a rooftop garden, uses water-saving devices, has non-ozone-depleting refrigerants in cooling equipment, uses a refrigerant detection system, and has energy efficient lighting.


Jewel-Osco employs more than 45,000 associates. Its customer base gave it a 45 percent share of the grocery market in Chicago, trailed by the Safeway Inc.-owned Dominick's chain (ranking second at 15 percent) before its closure. Consumers from 80 percent of all households in the Chicago metropolitan area visit a Jewel-Osco store at least once a month.

On January 10, 2013, SuperValu announced the sale of Jewel food stores to Cerberus Capital Management in a $3.3 billion deal. The deal closed on March 21, 2013.

Past ventures

Over the years, Jewel has tried other concepts and ideas. It is credited with selling the first generic brand product line in 1977. The packaging had no name or pictures — just a list of contents, UPC, and required nutritional information on a white package with a pseudo-army-surplus, olive-green stripe. The generic line was given the brand "Econo Buy" in the early 1990s.

Jewel Grand Bazaar

In 1973, Jewel Companies opened an experimental Jewel Grand Bazaar, on the southwest side of Chicago; a store that encompassed an entire city block at the northwest corner of 54th Street and Pulaski Road. This store featured bulk packaging, free samples on weekends, and 24-hour service. See photos: photos This experimental store was in service from 1973 until the 1980s, when it was reformatted as a standard Jewel-Osco combo store. A second Grand Bazaar was opened in 1974 at 87 W. 87th St in Chicago and in 1977, a "Jewel Grand Bazaar" was opened at 6505 W. Diversey in the Brickyard Mall. A fourth location was opened in Franklin Park in 1975.

During the 1990s, the Diversey Avenue Grand Bazaar was reformatted to a regular Jewel grocery store, but continued to carry some of the traditional "Grand Bazaar" features such as bulk foods. With the reconstruction of the Brickyard Mall in 2003, the Grand Bazaar store was demolished and replaced with a smaller Jewel grocery store. Rockford, Illinois also had a Jewel Grand Bazaar. There was also one on Grand Ave. and Kostner Ave. on Chicago's West side. The last "Grand Bazaar" format store was opened in 1976 at Grand ave. and Mannheim road in Franklin Park, Illinois. This building is currently being operated as a Jewel-Osco. Neither the Chicago Tribune nor the Chicago Sun-Times record when these stores were actually converted or closed.

Turn Style

In 1961, Jewel Companies, then Jewel Tea, acquired a chain of discount stores in the Chicago area called Turn Style. This chain was moderately successful throughout the 1960s. Some locations were combined with Jewel's supermarket brands to form Family Centers. In 1978, 19 of 22 locations were sold to May Department Stores and converted to the Venture format. Other stores were converted into large Osco Drug Stores.

Jewel T

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Jewel Companies operated a no-frills grocery chain called Jewel T. The typical store tend to be rather small, 8,000 square feet instead of the typical 30,000 for a full-service supermarket, with a selection rather limited to canned and dry foods and non-perishable, but everything sold at a steep discount.

To avoid cannibalizing sales from their existing markets in the Midwest and North East Atlantic States, the first Jewel T location was opened in New Port Richey, Florida in 1977, quickly followed by 2 other stores in the St. Petersburg area during the same year. Jewel T expanded into Pennsylvania in 1978 and Atlanta in 1979. Jewel T had approximately 30 stores in two states at the beginning of 1979 and 44 stores in four states by the following June.

By the end of 1979, Jewel T had 87 stores located in the states of Florida, Georgia, Texas, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Alabama. In the first month of 1980, Jewel T opened eight stores in highly competitive Southern California. In 1981, Jewel T opened stores in Atlanta and its 150th store in Louisiana.

At its height in 1981, Jewel T operated 150 stores in 10 states located mainly in the Mid-Atlantic, South East, the Gulf Coast, the Deep South, and also Southern California. At the same time it began to start having problems in competing against the full service supermarkets which fought back by dropping prices, in some cases at or below costs, on the same limited items that Jewel T and other discount food stores specialized in stocking. Within a few years, the company began to sell unprofitable locations. By the beginning of 1984, approximately 131 locations remained.

In March 1984, the company closed all 21 Jewel T stores in Southern California. Seven of the leases and most of the inventory was sold to the 99 Cents Only Stores.

A few months later, 105 stores remained when the chain was finally sold off in two separate transactions in June 1984, 28 stores in Texas were sold to a group of managers while the other 77 stores in Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey were sold to Save-A-Lot.

Republic Lumber

Jewel Companies expanded into the hardware and home improvement business by acquiring Republic Lumber in 1972. In 1979, Jewel, under the Osco division, sold four of its five Republic Lumber locations to R & L Lumber, parent company of Handy Andy Home Improvement Center, and closed the fifth. They were located on the west side of Chicago at 4052 W. Grand Ave (a former Jewel opened in 1957 to celebrate the chain's 25th anniversary), Oak Lawn, Arlington Heights and Chicago Heights. A fifth location in Norridge was closed early in 1979 when the lease was not renewed; it later became a Joseph Lumber location.

President's Choice house brand

As a subsidiary division of American Stores, Jewel-Osco began offering the Canadian staple President's Choice branded products in 1992. President's Choice is a house brand created and distributed by Loblaw Companies Limited of Toronto, Ontario. Loblaw makes extra money by offering their President`s Choice to other retailers who do not compete in their home marketing areas. Under American Stores marketing agreement with Loblaw, American Stores were the exclusive distributor of the President's Choice brand within each American Stores, marketing area. The marketing agreement between Jewel and Loblaw ceased when Albertsons acquired American Stores. In 2011, Supervalu replaced the house brand at Jewel with their own Culinary Circle and Wild Harvest private label brands.

Organizational philosophy

A 1972 book written by Jewel senior leaders, The Jewel Concepts, stressed good citizenship within the community, "watching the horizon," and sponsorship of young people.

In an Illinois Retail Merchants Association online article, retired Jewel-Osco chairman Don Perkins reflects, "Jewel has a tradition of people orientation." One of these traditions came in the form of the "first assistant" philosophy of management. Each higher-level manager was to see himself or herself as serving the employees he or she managed. On the store level, this would mean that the manager would be the "first assistant" to the employees by making personal contact and taking personal interest, solving problems, suggesting solutions, and using flexibility in order to best serve the employees' concerns. Then the floor employees' duty was to be in service as the "first assistant" to the customers.

Jewel also was progressive in creating partnerships with vendors, at a time when the practice was rare.

Current stores

  • Albertsons LLC owns these Jewel-Osco stores:
  • Jewel-Osco and Jewel stores (168 stores), located in Chicago metro area, including northwestern Indiana.
  • Jewel-Osco and Jewel stores (10 stores), located in Central and Western Illinois, Eastern Iowa.
  • Former stores

  • These former Jewel-Osco or Jewel stores are now owned by Niemann Foods and were rebranded as Cub Foods–County Market
  • Jewel-Osco (2 stores) located in Springfield, Illinois (originally acquired by Cerberus)
  • All freestanding Osco drugstores (90 stores in Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Wisconsin) were sold to CVS and rebranded as CVS/pharmacy.
  • The two locations in southern Wisconsin, located just north of the border in Kenosha and Racine, have both closed.
  • References

    Jewel (supermarket) Wikipedia

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