Wednesday, September 10, 2008

When King Kullen was in Queens

Apartment for rent: two bedrooms, one bath, on bustling Queens commercial strip, offers chance to live where world's first supermarket once stood.

That's the pitch for a walk-up at 171-06 Jamaica Ave., where Michael Cullen set up shop on Aug. 4, 1930, letting customers buy groceries, meat and produce under one roof, and without needing a clerk to fetch each item.

"It's a building that helped create an America as a place where you could make your own purchasing decisions," said Cullen's grandson, Thomas, 57, a vice president of the King Kullen chain.

Rooms above, supermarket history below at King Kullen site

Cullen was the first to combine the elements that define the modern supermarket: self service, separate departments, discount pricing, chain marketing and dealing in volume.

He advertised as "the world's greatest price wrecker" and adopted the motto, "Pile it high, sell it low."

A year after the first King Kullen opened, Cullen moved to a bigger space at 173rd St. and Jamaica Ave., Bellitte said.

Cullen died at age 52 in 1936 and was buried in Flushing. King Kullen now operates 50 stores in Long Island and Staten Island.

Such a historic locale, but as it was in Queens, of course it's not there anymore. In fact, there are no King Kullen stores at all in the borough that started it all. But hey - there's a plaque on the wall! (Hopefully not made of metal or that will be gone soon, too.)

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