The History of Piggly Wiggly Carolina

Founder Joseph T. Newton, Jr. 

It started as a struggling young enterprise in an old cotton warehouse located on the banks of the Cooper River at the foot of Pritchard Street in Charleston, SC in 1947. It was the beginning of a dream long envisioned by its founder, Joseph T. Newton, Jr. Having lived through the Great Depression, and the deprivations of World War II, Mr. Newton knew the meaning of hard work and personal sacrifice. As the war ended, he was a young married man with a growing family. Merchandising, and the grocery business in particular, was his trade. He worked hard, long hours as a butcher and grocer to make a living to support his young family.

It occurred to Mr. Newton that there should be a central source to supply grocery stores with all their needs, rather than each store having to deal with 20 or more different suppliers for their merchandise. He was convinced that with a central buying office, he could bargain for lower prices on volume purchases from all suppliers and supply stores at a lower cost.

 

Original Meeting Street Warehouse 

Having scrimped and saved every penny possible during those early years, Mr. Newton set out to purchase a Piggly Wiggly Grocery Franchise from the Piggly Wiggly Corporation. One by one, Mr. Newton convinced owners of small grocery stores to join the franchise, and very soon the round sign with the smiling Pig’s head became a familiar landmark throughout South Carolina and later in Savannah, Georgia.

As each journey begins with one step at a time, the early years of Piggly Wiggly Wholesale were skimpy and frugal, to say the least. The little warehouse operation in Charleston had a mere handful of employees. Mr. Newton called on stores for orders personally, at the same time, contacting others to join the Piggly Wiggly group. There was one delivery truck and workdays that stretched far into the night. Mr. Newton was eager to have his son-in-law, Burt Schools, with his educational background, join the business. Mr. Newton’s wisdom in seeing great potentials within Burt Schools, proved his instincts were right on target. Burt’s contribution in the financial end of the business played a key role in its phenomenal growth and success. He joined the business in 1958.

 

Original North Charleston Offices 

Already there were plans to move the warehouse to North Charleston, but it remained downtown until September of 1959. The new building in North Charleston was where the current Building #1 stands. It was not huge, but certainly larger and nicer than the cramped spaces from which we came.

The next big thing to happen was in the early 1960’s when we bought out the company in Columbia in which Mr. Newton was a partner. We were called Piggly Wiggly Wholesale and the company in Columbia was called Piggly Wiggly Carolina. After the sale, we changed our name to Piggly Wiggly Carolina. This was our biggest leap of growth that we had up to that time. This added about 30 stores from the Columbia and surrounding areas. The company in Columbia had also started a produce company and it continued to stay there until it was moved to Charleston in 1986.

Under Mr. Newton’s guidance and leadership, Piggly Wiggly Carolina experienced phenomenal growth and the name Piggly Wiggly soon became a household word, known for its national brands, fair prices and friendly service. Customers in ever growing numbers depended on the original self-service supermarket for their total food needs. Mr. Newton was gifted in enlisting the services of some of the most dedicated employees in shaping the growing company into, not only the friendliest place in town, but also the most generous in returning a sizeable portion of the company’s earnings back into each community in which Piggly Wiggly operated.

 

President Joseph T. "Buzzy" Newton, III 

Mr. Newton’s son, Joseph T. “Buzzy” Newton, III, joined the business in 1962. He worked in various areas learning the business from the bottom up, and the company continued to grow and prosper. He realized that many independent stores would not be able to find the financing for the new multi-million dollar supermarkets and that it was going to be necessary for Piggly Wiggly to begin to own stores and operate as a true chain. This concept has been responsible for much of our growth with over 60% of our stores being company owned. Buzzy Newton was also instrumental in increasing the scope of Piggly Wiggly Carolina’s service to include a full line of perishable products. This full service concept helps to make Piggly Wiggly stores even stronger as competitors in the grocery business.

Upon Mr. Newton’s retirement in 1979, he became Chairman of the Board and Buzzy Newton was named President of Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. and Executive Vice President of Greenbax Enterprises. At the same time, Burt Schools was named Executive Vice President of Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. and President of Greenbax Enterprises.

 

 

Today, Piggly Wiggly Carolina has become the largest privately owned, family operated company in South Carolina servicing over 100 retail stores with annual sales of over $700 million and a workforce of over 5, 000 employees.

Diversification has been another important change in the Piggly Wiggly organization. Today it is active in many areas including Greenbax Enterprises, Newton Builders, Tri-State Printing and Stagecoach.

It was a sad day in the history of our company when Mr. Joseph T. Newton, Jr. passed away on August 15, 1997 at age 85. He left behind one of the state’s leading retail businesses and a legacy of caring philanthropy that should continue to serve this community long and well.

Mr. Burton R. Schools retired from Piggly Wiggly Carolina Company in July of 1998. Mr. Schools said that the most rewarding part of his 40 years with the company was knowing young people that came here, stayed here, and watching and helping them grow to become important people with the company and develop into great adults and great contributors to the community. He said Mr. Newton once told him a person’s greatest contribution is to train his or her replacement.

 

Buzzy Newton, Tradd Newton
Bill Edenfield, and David Schools
 

Piggly Wiggly Carolina Company continues to grow. Construction was completed in 1999 on two large projects; the new corporate office building on Albermarle Road and the Hwy. 61 Connector, and a new distribution facility in Berkeley County.

 

Corporate Offices at Albermarle
Jedburg Warehouse 

Piggly Wiggly offers a great benefits package to all its full-time employees and continues to look for ways to better serve its employees and the community. We are a formidable competitor in all of the markets in which we serve – Charleston, Columbia, the Upstate, Florence, Savannah, and now growing in South Georgia. Our store operators have a most unique incentive in that they can share in the distribution of profits. With Piggly Wiggly, every employee is an individual with opportunity limited only by his/her own ability and imagination.

 

Directions to Piggly Wiggly Drive, North Charleston

Coming from Columbia on I-26 going East to Charleston. Exit 212-C onto I-526 East towards Mt. Pleasant. Continue in right lane and take the first exit, #18-A, which will say RIVERS AVENUE EAST (also known as Highway 52). Continue down Rivers Avenue until your second traffic signal. There will be a Hess Service Station on the corner. Turn right onto Piggly Wiggly Drive and then locate your destination.

 

Directions to Albemarle Point Center

Traveling on I-26, take exit #221 towards Highway 17 South to Savannah. Stay on this road for approximately 2 miles; you will see a sign for Albemarle Road. Turn left. The Albemarle Complex (Piggly Wiggly Corporate Offices) Building is on the left. The actual address is 176 Croghan Spur Road, Suite 400, Charleston, SC 29407.

 

Directions to Jedburg Distribution Center

Coming from North Charleston or Charleston travel I-26 West. Take exit #94 to Jedburg. At the stop sign, turn left and go over the interstate. Turn left at the first road onto Old Dairy Road, which will lead you directly to the warehouse (1125 Newton Way, Summerville, SC 29483).