Giant Food (Washington, DC)

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Major player in Washington-Baltimore area. Purchased by Ahold in 1998, which meant a “merger” of sorts with the previously unrelated Giant chain in Pennsylvania.

From an archived version of the Giant Food website:

The year 1936 was the end of an era in American history. Until then, most food stores were small and relied on high markups to produce profits. During the Depression, people were desperately casting about to find ways to reduce costs; but to also have a proper diet for good health.

It was with this understanding of the times that Giant’s founders, N.M. Cohen and Samuel Lehrman, decided to introduce a new concept in food markets in the Washington area. It seemed logical to these men that, since the public was clamoring for lower prices, the only answer was to replace high markups with high volume — a very novel approach at the time. The founders of Giant reasoned that a large store that sold a lot of goods and operated on a self-services basis could afford to sell the food at lower prices. There also were many skeptics who said such a system could never succeed. They felt that these “supermarkets” would never catch on, and that opening one was a very risky business.

Giant’s founders took the risk. They decided to open the largest food market in the Washington area. From the beginning, they realized that the high volume necessary for the success of the business depended on offering their customers a wide variety of quality food at the lowest possible prices, and friendly, pleasant service they could count on.

With these principles in mind, Giant Store #1 was opened in February 1936 on Georgia Avenue in Washington D.C. Customers from all around the metropolitan Washington area flocked to the new Giant store so they could “get a thrill out of helping themselves” and to take advantage of the low prices. Giant made such an impact on the retail food industry in the area that, within one year, Washington area food prices were down 35 percent. The supermarket was firmly established in the nation’s capital.


N.M. Cohen and Samuel Lehrman found Giant Food Inc. and open Washington, DC’s first supermarket.

Giant begins move toward vertical integration and leases a slaughterhouse to ship meats to stores.

Giant opens its first store outside of Washington, in Arlington, Va.

Giant purchases Sheridan Bakery in Silver Spring, Md. and renames it Heidi Bakery.

Company sets standard for supermarkets by adding automatic doors, mechanized checkouts, and open display cases for meat and frozen foods.

Giant Construction Company established to build Giant stores, and GFS Realty established to handle the sales and leasing of real estate for the company. First Giant store opens in Baltimore, Md.

New headquarters and distribution center opens in Landover, Md. First “Super Giant” department store opens. Eight additional Super Giant stores open within a year.

Giant grows to 53 stores and begins computerizing its customer data, inventory, and other information.

Company opens its first food/drug combination store.

N.M. Cohen takes the newly created position as Chairman and Joseph B. Danzansky takes over as president.

Giant hires the industry’s first consumer advocate, Esther Peterson, and works with government and industry to develop and test consumer programs, including unit pricing and nutrition labeling.

Warehouse and grocery distribution center opens in Jessup.

Joseph Danzansky becomes chairman as N.M. Cohen becomes honorary chairman, and Izzy Cohen takes over as president. Giant’s four remaining department stores and seven carpet centers are closed.

Giant is first supermarket chain to put computer-assisted checkout scanning equipment into use chain wide.

Company begins building larger stores, up to 60,000 square feet. Company introduces life saving computerized prescription system to help guard against harmful side effects.

Gourmet food store, Someplace Special opens in Mclean, Va. Richmond stores closed.

Pete Manos becomes president. Izzy Cohen continues as chairman of the board.

Giant begins northern expansion with plans to open stores in Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania under the Super G trade name. J. Sainsbury buys the Lehrman’s non-controlling voting stock in Giant.

Izzy Cohen passes away. The 1224 Corporation gains control of company.

Pete Manos becomes chairman.

Ahold purchases Giant Food Inc.

Pete Manos retires, Dick Baird named president and CEO.