Note: Moore, John Trotwood and Austin P. Foster. Tennessee, The Volunteer State, 1769-1923, Vol. 3. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1923., Pages 298-303: "Ten years ago Clarence Saunders was unknown except among a small group of business men in Memphis, and to a few close friends and acquaintances in Montgomery, his former home county. Today he is known by capitalists and financiers in every large city in this country. His name is coupled with that of Piggly Wiggly wherever men and women read the newspapers, or the magazines which print articles about achievement and success, which is in practically every city and hamlet in these United States. 'Piggly Wiggly' is the magic phrase which he used as the open sesame to fame and fortune. The Piggly Wiggly chain of retail grocery stores in hundreds of cities (more than twelve hundred of them as this is written) are operated under patent rights owned and controlled by corporations of which Clarence Saunders is the head. The first Piggly Wiggly was opened in Memphis only seven years ago, in September, 1916. The Piggly Wiggly Corporation, the parent organization, was formed during the same year. Only a little later came the organization of the Piggly Wiggly Stores, Incorporated, the merchandising unit of the system. These two corporations have an aggregate capital of approximately fifteen million dollars. They all resulted from the capitalization of an idea. That idea originated in Clarence Saunders' brain. Briefly, it was his thought that most of the cost of doing business in the ordinary neighborhood grocery store consists of clerk hire, delivery charges, losses from charge accounts and waste of effort. He believed that the general run of buyers would prefer to wait on themselves, pay in cash, and carry their purchases home. He provided a system which enabled them to do just that. Incidentally, by eliminating waste and overhead, and by buying for chains of hundreds of thousands of stores, the Piggly Wigglies could undersell any but the largest chain system. Then he 'told the world' by systematic advertising on a large scale. His million-dollar idea wouldn't have succeeded if scientific merchandising had not been coupled with scientific advertising. In his advertising he was as original as in his merchandising plans. Nothing like the 'copy' that he wrote had ever been seen in newspaper and advertising circles. But everyone read it. It brought customers to the Piggly Wiggly stores by the thousand. When that fact was demonstrated, the advertising experts who had criticized his methods and the people who had laughed decided that he wasn't crazy but an advertising genius. That, as has been said, was only seven years ago. During that seven years Mr. Saunders has expanded his original idea; has carried his vision of a great merchandising and food distributing system further toward his goal; has brought nearer every year the culmination of the Piggly Wiggly slogan, which is painted in large letters over every store front, 'Piggly Wiggly all over the World.' What then of the character of the man who has accomplished so much within so brief a time? Is his success the outcome of a sudden brilliant thought, or the culmination of years of thinking and planning? The romance of success in most instances is merely the result of a determined ambition, the carrying out of plans deeply considered, or years devoted to overcoming obstacles and to making opportunities. That was what Clarence Saunders was doing during the first twenty-five years of his business life. He had no opportunities except those he made for himself. He was a poor country boy. He had scant chances for attending school. He had to earn his own living from the time he was old enough to work in the tobacco fields of Middle Tennessee. But whatever he did, he did thoroughly. No matter how long and hard his tasks, he studied during every spare hour. He trained himself really to think. He concentrated upon one thing at a time. He did not indulge in mere day dreams, wishes for something unobtainable. His visions were tangible. He held to them through poverty and adversity until he had brought about the opportunity and the time for action. Then he was prepared to act quickly and effectively. Let us go back to Clarence Saunders' boyhood. He was born in Amherst county, Virginia, August 9, 1881. His parents were Abram Warwick and Mary Gregory Saunders. His mother died when he was but five years old. The family then moved to Tennessee, locating on a small farm in Montgomery county. As soon as he was old enough he began to work for his own support. He worked at light farm tasks and as a hand in the tobacco fields. Later he secured work at a planing mill, where he earned twenty-five cents a day. His industry was always in evidence. He never idled. During two Christmas vacation periods he worked in a small country store at Palmyra, not far from Clarksville, Tennessee. He worked so faithfully that the owner offered him a regular position at four dollars a month and board. He was going to school at this time, but he at once left school and went to work, though he carried his school books with him and studied them at night. His wages were increased by a dollar a week within six months, but he earned the eight dollars he received, for he worked from five o'clock in the morning frequently until ten o'clock at night. He got experience in many tasks, for in addition to his work in the store, he helped with the work at the post office and around the railroad station. From Palmyra he went to Cumberland City, where he worked as a clerk for about a year. Then he went to a coal mining district in Alabama, and worked for seven months in charge of one hundred and fifty coke ovens, and where he received a dollar a day for his services. Then his former employer offered him one half of the profits of the store at Palmyra if he would return. He did, but soon afterward his employer sold the store. He then secured work in a sawmill at a dollar a day, and had to walk three miles to and from his work. So the early years passed until he was a youth of eighteen. He had continued his studies as best he could. He thus early had decided upon a career in business, and he sought and obtained work in a store in Clarksville. At nineteen, he was working in a wholesale grocery in that city, first for thirty dollars a month. He showed such ability and industry that his salary was advanced during the four years he remained there to ninety dollars a month. He decided that it was time to gain experience in a larger field and he moved to Memphis, securing a position with a wholesale grocery house as city salesman. Within two years he became one of the best grocery salesmen in Memphis, the volume of his monthly sales reaching a large sum. He worked for several wholesale grocery houses until 1915. Then he was able to undertake the task of reestablishing the city trade of another wholesale company, which had been boycotted by many retail grocers because it sold to a chain of grocery stores which were rapidly becoming a disturbing factor in the old-fashioned grocery trade. He accepted the position and through the force of his personality and his methods of gaining the confidence of the retail grocers, he was able finally to regain the trade of hundreds of retail grocers for his employers. He visited this trade often. At first he did not even try to sell to them, but took every opportunity for a friendly talk, and to offer suggestions for the improvement of the appearance of the store, for saving waste in handling perishable stock or in arranging the goods for greater convenience in handling and selling them. Incidentally, he would mention some especially attractive line which his house was selling, or some special price, and gradually he began to obtain orders from the men whose confidence and goodwill he had gained. He made such a record within a short time, that his original employers offered him an increased salary if he would return to them. But he had been studying the retail grocery business all the time, with the purpose in view of eventually engaging in it himself, and had been planning for the chain store system which he was finally able to organize. He did not accept the salaried position offered him, but organized a chain of twenty-one retail groceries into a buying association. The ownership remained with the individual stores but Mr. Saunders was put in charge of the collective buying and advertising. Within a few months he had this organization functioning. The result was that from a monthly sales volume of about three thousand and five hundred dollars his sales soon reached to thirty-five thousand dollars, ten times the former volume. He had saved about three thousand dollars. He decided to form a wholesale grocery firm of his own. He interested seventy-one other men, and started his wholesale house with a capital of twenty-six thousand dollars. Within thirty days he had bought a stock and had it in a warehouse and started the wholesale business. He gave his entire time and energy to it and the business for the first twelve months reached two million dollars. This remarkable achievement would have satisfied the ordinary man, but Clarence Saunders was planning something larger and every experience was made to contribute to the carrying out of his larger plans. These plans which he had been carefully thinking out for years, were for the establishment of a system of chain grocery stores to be operated upon an entirely new system. He had studied the operation of other systems of chain stores. He knew the economies to be found in buying foodstuffs in large quantities and from first bands, but he was convinced that the system he had in mind could be made both a wonderfully profitable one and one that would serve the public better than any then in existence. While planning this new system he was thinking of some name which would be distinctive and which could not possibly be imitated. He finally hit upon the unique name by which each of his stores should be christened. He decided to name them 'Piggly Wiggly.' Around that name, and around the idea which it embodied in his mind, he has built up the great corporations which today dominate the retail grocery trade in hundreds of cities. Mr. Saunders planned not only the general outline of the Piggly Wiggly system of merchandising, but he planned the arrangement of the stores to the minutest detail. In each of the chain of twelve hundred stores the arrangement of the shelving and the arrangement of the stock is exactly the same. Every detail was thought out before the first Piggly Wiggly Store was opened in Memphis in September, 1916, and scarcely a change in the interior arrangement has been made since that time. This indicates the thoroughness with which Mr. Saunders thinks out everything that he undertakes. It is a side light on his character. Within the seven years since the first Piggly Wiggly began business, it has been demonstrated that the self-service idea has won public approval as applied to the retail grocery business. Other stores soon followed the first one in Memphis. The chain now stretches from the Canadian border to the Rio Grande and from coast to coast. Today the Piggly Wiggly Stores are doing the third largest grocery business in the United States. Within the past few months Mr. Saunders has extended the idea to the establishment of Variety Stores, handling light dry goods and notions, small hardware and kitchen utensils, candies, etc. These also are known as Piggly Wigglies, and the merchandise handled is sold at uniform prices ranging from four to thirty-nine cents. These new Piggly Wiggly stores are being rapidly established in a number of cities. Before leaving this part of the story of the growth of the Piggly Wiggly system, something should be said of the remarkable series of advertisements which ushered in the birth, as Mr. Saunders called it, of the first Piggly Wiggly, and which was followed from month to month in every city in which these stores were established, by equally large and startling advertisements. These covered entire pages in the daily newspapers. They contained no illustrations or cuts. They were set in big black type, like a gigantic editorial, and in them Mr. Saunders talked to the public in such a strikingly unique way that they became one of the favorite topics of conversation everywhere whenever they appeared. These advertisements were so strikingly original that they were commented upon by every important advertising magazine, condemned by some, praised by others. But they secured attention and sold the Piggly Wiggly idea to the public everywhere, and an advertisement that will do that is certainly effective advertising. The outstanding traits of Clarence Saunders' personality are clearly indicated in his successful achievements. He is self poised and confident. His gray eyes are keen. He looks straight at the man with whom he is talking. He speaks with quick decision and earnestness. He has the valuable faculty of concentration. He gives his whole attention to the matter in hand and then turns to the next task, giving that equally concentrated attention. He is therefore able to dispose of a vast amount of detail every day. His big desk is never littered with papers. It is always cleared for action. He makes quick decisions, but that is because in most instances he has familiarized himself with all the details involved beforehand. He dresses quietly and lives in an unassuming way. In spite of his vast business interests he so systematizes his time that he is able to take a few hours every day for reading or recreation. His recreation hobbies are golf and bird and duck shooting. He is a member of the Memphis Country Club and the Colonial Country Club, and is a familiar figure on the golf courses at both clubs. He plays an exceedingly good game, concentrating upon it just as he does upon business matters. He is a fine shot, and enjoys nothing better than a tramp over the fields and woods behind a good bird dog, or a trip to some of the ponds, lakes or river bars where ducks abound. It is by such healthful recreation that he keeps as active and fit today as he was as a youth of twenty. His home life is an enviable one. He was married to Miss Carolyn Walker of McLeansboro, Illinois, October 6, 1903. They have three children, two sons, Lee and Clarence, and a daughter, Amy Clare. The new suburban home which he is building within a mile of Memphis' eastern city limits is to be named for these children, 'Cla-Le-Clare.' The house is to be of pink marble, located in almost the center of a one hundred and sixty-two-acre tract of great natural beauty. The grounds are to be arranged according to Mr. and Mrs. Saunders' own idea. There will be a fine golf course, a large lake, swimming pool, tennis courts, and provision for other forms of outdoor sport. The mansion will be one of the most completely equipped in the entire country. Clarence Saunders has demonstrated throughout his business career that he is a fighter who never considers that he is beaten. Through the years when he was striving for success he encountered many obstacles that would have beaten a man with less determination. For example, some years ago, he resented the idea of a manufacturer assuming to dictate to the retail trade the price at which his product should be resold, and the refusal to sell to a dealer who dared to cut the fixed price. He used advertising and publicity in his fight against one of the biggest manufacturing firms in the country, taking many pages in the newspapers to give his views. Through his personal efforts the Stevens-Ashurst bill, then pending in congress, which was intended to give manufacturers the right thus to dictate the resale price of their products, was defeated. The supreme court of the United States, in a similar case, has since upheld Mr. Saunders' position. Another side light on his fighting spirit is the brief campaigns he made for his friend, Austin Peay of Clarksville, when he was a candidate for the democratic nomination for the governor of Tennessee. In Mr. Peay's first campaign he did not secure the nomination, although Mr. Saunders, through a remarkable newspaper advertising campaign, carried his home county of Shelby for him. In 1922, when Mr. Peay was again a candidate, Mr. Saunders threw himself into the campaign in Shelby county and he practically took personal charge of both of the primary campaigns and the succeeding November election. He wrote and had inserted scores of newspaper advertisements and although the machine politicians all over the state were against Mr. Peay he carried the state in the primary. Later Mr. Saunders took personal charge of the Peay campaign headquarters in Memphis and carried the city and county for him, and contributed largely to his election. This illustrated another trait of his character--his unswerving loyalty to his friends. His generosity to charities of many kinds and his liberal aid to educational and religious causes are well known. He was one of the largest contributors to the funds for the erection of the Methodist Hospital and Baptist Memorial Hospital and Southwestern College, and annually makes generous contributions to the Red Cross, the Y. M. C. A. and to numerous similar organizations. His thoroughness and tenacity of purpose are the outstanding features of Clarence Saunders' career. In one of the few newspaper interviews he has ever given, speaking of his philosophy of life, he said: 'When you go after a thing, go after it hard. Subordinate everything else to it. If it shortens your life ten years, what of it? I would rather live forty years and accomplish what I want, than ninety and not attain it.' That is what Clarence Saunders has done. That is why he has succeeded. He has stuck steadily to the job he set for himself. His brain is constantly evolving new ideas for the expansion of his retail grocery system and other merchandising plans. He may yet startle the business world with new successes in other lines. Meanwhile, he is acknowledged as one of the business geniuses of his generation and one of the leading citizens of his city and state."
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