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In 1859, George Gilman and George Huntington Hartford invented a new retailing idea - buy tea from boats at the dock, and sell it directly to the consumer from a store near the docks. They opened their first store in New York City, and were able to dramatically reduced the price consumers paid for tea by eliminating several middlemen.  Soon they were doing the same with coffee, spices, canned goods and other products. Fifty Two years later (1912) they had over 400 stores.

In 1912 Hartford's son John had an even more radical idea for their stores - Eliminate telephone orders, deliveries, credit accounts and clerks that weighed everything to order for each customer. In the new stores, there would be only one clerk, everything would be sold for cash, and customers would get their own prepackaged food from the shelves and carry it home themselves! A revolutionary idea at the time. Within 5 years they had over 3,000 stores and had changed American's food and shopping habits.

The name of the company was originally the Great American Tea Company, which became the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, and John's new stores were named A & P - the first modern supermarkets.



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