If you grew up or lived in St. Louis you know the old National Supermarket jingle by heart, “At National Supermarkets… You are Important to Us!” It has been over 13 years now since the 1995 buy-out of National Supermarkets, an icon of St. Louis that was dismantled piece by piece. Once the 2nd largest grocer in the area, it was bought-out in 1995 by Schnucks, Inc. who subsequently raped and pillaged the stores, keeping the best for themselves and letting the others go to ruin before selling them off.
This article is dedicated to National Supermarkets, the former employees and all hundreds of thousands of people who shopped there over the years. Most of the information on this page comes from old newspaper articles, past employees and my personal experiences with National.
National Supermarkets was born out of the National Tea Company and was a subsidiary of Loblaw’s of Canada. The National Tea Company had roots dating as far back as the late 1800′s. A 1955 article courtesy of Time Magazine highlights the change and growth of the National Tea Company including the recent expansion into the Missouri market. Almost fourty years later you can read the 1994 Company Profile courtesy of the St. Louis Post Dispatch of National Supermarket’s St. Louis Headquarters.
Do you remember the barrel days at National? It was when you could walk into National and buy things in bulk out of a barrel. It was very popular in the 1980′s and National’s parent company Loblaw was responsible for this supermarket phenomenon. Read the 1983 Time Magazine article that talked about the new buying in bulk phenomenon hitting the stores.
Schnucks-National Buyout and Fallout
The buyout was one looked at closely by many across the country, the head of the FTC at the time wrote about the buyout in a paper she presented on ensuring a competitive marketplace. Little did she know that Schnucks would do all it could to make sure that competitiveness would be stripped as soon as the buyout was approved.
Read the 1997 FTC charges against Schnucks alleging they sabotaging stores and inventory before selling off 23 National Supermarkets to Family Company of America, the group led by James Gibson who re-opened the 23 stores under the National name. The FTC fined Schnucks $3 million dollars for running down the stores and hindering competition in the St. Louis market.
A 1997 article that appeared in the Supermarket Business industry newspaper examined the Schnucks-National merger in detail and had some rather harsh words to say about the whole affair.
The “New” National
In 1996, National Supermarkets was resurrected by a group of former managers under the business name of Family Company of America lead by James Gibson. 23 stores re-opened under the National name only to go down in flames through scandal, fraud and bankruptcy in 1999. It was a sad ending to an icon that defined St. Louis grocery shopping for so many years. Read more about the sentencing of Jim Gibson, the guy who tried to resurrect National and ended up bankrupting not only the stores, but also innocent people.
Unknown to many until the bankruptcy, Gibson had actually used money that wasn’t his from trust funds to purchase the stores. Unfortunately, given the state of disrepair that Schnucks had let many of the stores fall into that Family Company purchase, they were never able to resurrect the volume of business National once did. You can read about the final National closing (under the Family Company of America ownership) and hear people talk fondly about how they will miss National in 1999.
Another article that appeared in the St. Louis Business Journal in mid-1999 highlighted problems arising at National under Family Company of America, including the closing of their main supplier which only made problems worse. With empty shelves due to their supplier now being located in Kansas City, and the stopping of television advertising the writing was on the wall for many.
National Supermarket Murders
National Supermarket News Articles – Updated June 3, 2010!
- National Surrenders – The Final 1999 Closing of the “New” National
- Letters from the People on the 1995 Buyout of National by Schnucks
- National May Live Again – January 1996 article on the “New” National under Family Co. of America
- National Employees Plan Reunion – April 2009
- National Supermarkets May Live Again – January 1996
- National Returns – March 1996
- FTC Puts National Supermarkets Back in Business – February 1996
- Supermarkets Reclaim National Name and Reopen – March 1996
- National Supermarkets Turns Into Schnucks – June 1995
National Supermarkets Photo Gallery
Thanks for visitors who have shared their pictures of National with me! I now have an online photo gallery of various National items and stores. If you have any pictures of National you would like to share with others, I’d love to add them to the gallery.
National Supermarkets Video Gallery
Here are, in their entirety, some of the commercials that National ran in the St. Louis, MO area in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
- National Supermarkets – Dollar Days Commercial
- National Supermarkets – Double Coupons Commercial
- National Supermarkets – President’s Choice Commercial
National Supermarket Store Locations and Information
National Supermarkets Quick Facts
- Owned by Lowblaws of Canada
- First Successful Push Out of a “Premium” Store Brand, “President’s Choice” in the U.S.
- The National logo was an upside-down version of the Loblaws logo