Local Boys Made Good
Back in 1948, two Dallas friends, J.R. Bost and Bob Cullum, became intrigued with a new shopping concept called "supermarkets." Together, they bought a small local chain. For the first few years they worked nights and weekends to upgrade the selection, quality and overall shopping experience. Despite their small size, they competed against the national chains. Their eager style of customer service was embodied by a friendly little cartoon figure in a grocer's apron—the instantly recognizable Tom Thumb logo.
As Dallas boomed and its suburban limits expanded, so did Tom Thumb. The marketplace was fiercely competitive. But by leveraging its local advantage, it prospered and by 1956, had grown to 20 stores. Tom Thumb was well on its way to becoming a major regional chain. Bob Cullum was a tireless innovator, especially in offering non-food items such as housewares and health and beauty products. Construction of new, larger stores and purchases of small chains continued non-stop.
At Heart, Always a Neighborhood Store
From 1950-66 Tom Thumb doubled its sales volume. They bought the gourmet specialty Simon David stores, 34 Hinky Dinky stores in the Midwest, even 17 Pantry Food Markets in California. Easily the most impactful move was the addition of Page Drugs. It signaled a new direction for Tom Thumb, combining food and drug in one store. It worked spectacularly. By 1974, sales had reached half a billion dollars. The zenith of this growth was in the 1980’s with a farsighted venture with Wal-Mart; the opening of A 220,000 square foot hyperstore. Despite its enormous sales volume, the project proved ahead of its time and was discontinued. Tom Thumb’s management took this opportunity to catch their breath. A refocused corporate strategy in the 90’s lead to a consolidation. In 1992, Jack Evans merged the Tom Thumb operations with those of a longtime colleague, Robert Onstead of Randall’s. Tom Thumb’s historic tradition of innovative customer service continued after the merger. In 1997, the first steps were begun to introduce online grocery service.
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