For the defunct Australia supermarket chain see Jewel Food Stores (Australia)

Jewel is an American supermarket chain that has 185 stores across northern, central, western Illinois and eastern Iowa and in portions of Indiana in the Chicago market. Jewel's warehouse and management offices are currently located in Melrose Park, Illinois; however, as of early August 2008, its management offices are being relocated to Itasca. As of June 2, 2006, Jewel and Jewel-Osco have become a wholly owned subsidiary of Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based Supervalu. Supervalu has publicly stated that Jewel's headquarters and operations management will remain in Melrose Park. They consolidated the support for the Osco side of the stores to the Melrose Park facility, as of December 2006. Supervalu also brought back the Jewel slogan, "Fresh to Your Family (from Jewel)"



Jewel was founded in Chicago, Illinois, by Frank Vernon Skiff in 1899 as a door-to-door delivery service for coffee. In 1902 it took the name Jewel Tea Company when Skiff partnered with Frank P. Ross, later moving to Barrington, Illinois in 1930. In 1932 Jewel acquired the Chicago unit of Loblaw Groceterias, Inc., then a chain of 72 self-service stores and four Chicago grocery stores operated by the Middle West Stores Company, and began operating them under the name Jewel Food Stores, Inc.

In 1934, Jewel Food Stores merged with Jewel Tea Company. In the 1960s and 1970s, Eisner Food Stores, located in downstate Illinois and west central Indiana (Lafayette, West Lafayette, Indiana), were part of the Jewel company; some time in the early 1980s, those store were converted to the Jewel name. Jewel sold its home shopping service in 1981.

Before 1970, Jewel stores were typically located on main arteries of city streets. Between 1970 and 1990, Jewel moved or expanded most of their stores to be freestanding buildings with ample parking. After its 1961 acquisition of Osco, Jewel built and operated many side-by-side stores during the 1960s and 1970s, but most construction after 1983 consolidated Jewel and Osco stores together as one large store under one roof. The two stores operate to the customer as one unit; for instance, a customer can check out any items at Jewel or Osco registers, find Jewel and Osco merchandise co-mingled throughout the store, and can call one telephone number to reach their Jewel-Osco. However, each operating unit keeps its own separate marketing identity to the public as a "food store" or a "drug store." Jewel and Osco stores under the same roof have separate managers, ordering and receiving procedures, budgets, and employees.

American Stores

Jewel Food Stores was taken over by American Stores in 1984.

To consolidate the names of some of its subsidiaries under one title with nationwide recognition, American Stores renamed some of its Skaggs Alpha Beta stores to Jewel Osco in mid-September 1991. American replaced the Skaggs Alpha Beta name with that of Jewel Osco on all 76 stores in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arkansas. Within months, the renamed stores in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas would be sold to Albertsons.

Albertsons and Supervalu

Jewel became part of Albertsons holdings in 1999 when American Stores was taken over.

Seven years later, parent company Albertsons and its stores would be taken over by two separate groups. With the approval on May 30, 2006 by shareholders of the break-up of Albertsons, all Jewel-Osco and Jewel Food Stores outside of Springfield, Illinois are now wholly owned by Supervalu. The Springfield stores, meanwhile, had been acquired by an investment group led by Cerberus Capital Management; of those, one has since been sold to the independent operators of the Cub Foods stores in the Springfield market, who rebranded it as Cub Foods, while the other location has since closed. All free-standing Osco drugstores are now owned by CVS. Supervalu will continue to use the Osco name as the licenses for pharmacies in Albertsons, Jewel, Star Market and Shaw's.

Supervalu announced on January 5, 2007, that it would offer for sale its Jewel-Osco stores in the Milwaukee area. Pick 'n Save agreed to take five of the 15 stores. Two other stores were purchased by Lena's Food Market. Supervalu announced to its workers that the remaining stores, if unsold, would close at the end of March.


Currently, Jewel-Osco employs over 45,000 associates. Its customer base gives it a 45% share of the grocery market in Illinois, where the chain shares a virtual duopoly with the Safeway Inc.-owned Dominick's chain second at 15%. Eighty percent of all households in Chicago metropolitan area are in a Jewel-Osco store at least once a month.

Jewel Grand Bazaar

From 1962 into the 1970s, the chain operated an experimental Jewel Grand Bazaar, which built out in one store on the southwest side of Chicago—a store that encompassed an entire city block at the northwest corner of 54th Street and Pulaski Road. These stores featured bulk packaging, free samples on weekends, and 24-hour service. See photos: photos This experimental store was in service from 1962 until that particular building was remodeled and updated in the late 1970s. In the 2000s it has been converted to a standard Jewel-Osco store. In 1977, a "Jewel Grand Bazaar" was opened at 6505 W. Diversey in the Brickyard Mall. The Diversey Grand Bazaar was later reformatted in the 1990s to a regular Jewel grocery store, but continued to carry some of the traditional "Grand Bazaar" features such as bulk foods. With the reconstruction of the Brickyard Mall in 2003, the Grand Bazaar store was demolished and replaced with a smaller Jewel grocery store. Rockford, IL also had a Jewel Grand Bazaar, which later became a Magna due to the high cost of employing unionized cashiers (while other grocers--except for Eagle--in the market had non-union cashiers).

Other ventures

Jewel Companies tried other concepts and ideas. They are credited with selling the first generic brand product line in 1977. The packaging had no name or pictures — just what the contents were and a UPC code and required nutritional information on a white package with an avocado-green stripe. The generic line was given the brand "Econo Buy" in the early 1990's.

Jewel once operated a store branded No Frills, a very basic store they only sold generic products, similar to ALDI. In Rockford, Illinois, a store called Magna is an upgraded version of No Frills, a store with namebrand products.

Jewel has also experimented with the Market concept, with smaller stores in neighborhoods. Only one of these stores is still using the idea, in Arlington Heights, IL.

In 1961, Jewel opened a new chain of discount department stores in the Chicago area called Turn Style. This chain was moderately successful throughout the 1960s, but in 1978 most locations were sold to May Department Stores and converted to the Venture format. Other stores were converted to large Osco Drug Stores.

In 1979, Jewel, under the Osco division, sold four of five Republic Lumber locations to R & L Lumber, parent comany of Handy Andy Home Improvement Center. They were located on the west side of Chicago at 4052 W, Grand Ave, Oak Lawn, Arlington Heights and Chicago Heights. A fifth location in Norridge was closed early in 1979 when the lease was not renewed and later became a Joseph Lumber location.

In 2008, Supervalu converted one of its closed Sunflower Market stores on Clybourn Avenue to an "Urban Fresh by Jewel," a smaller store than the usual Jewel, with more upscale and organic products.

President's Choice house brand

Jewel-Osco has been offering the Canadian staple President's Choice branded products since the early 1990s. President's Choice is a house brand created and distributed by Loblaw Companies Limited of Toronto, Ontario. Even though Jewel-Osco and Loblaw's carries President's Choice products, Loblaw's and any of Jewel's past and present owners are unrelated. President's Choice, while still available, is being supplanted by other house brands, including Culinary Circle and Wild Harvest.

Chain expansion

Jewel-Osco has steadily expanded in the Chicago area. Only eleven of the chain's Chicago stores are the stand-alone Jewel Food Stores that date back to the 1950s and '60s; the rest are all newer Jewel-Osco concept stores. Jewel had Osco stores in Florida and small discount grocery stores called Jewel-T, a play on the original company name Jewel Tea. In 1989 American Stores expanded to Florida using the Jewel-Osco name but operating as a separate division distinct from the midwest Jewel-Osco operations. Florida was considered a good market for Jewel because of the high number of Chicagoans who had relocated to that state. However, after a few years, Jewel closed those stores. In the late 1990s, Jewel purchased a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, food chain and opened fifteen Jewel-Osco combo stores in the Milwaukee metro area, some of which employed urban designs.

Workers at Chicago area Jewel stores are members of the UFCW Local 881, make higher wages than workers in nonunionized stores, and constitute a stable workforce. Meat and deli employees are members of UFCW Local 1546.

Organizational philosophy

A 1972 book written by Jewel senior leaders, The Jewel Concepts, stressed good citizenship within their community, "watching the horizon," and sponsorship of young people.

In an Illinois Retail Merchants Association online article, retired Jewel-Osco chairman Don Perkins reflects, "Jewel has a tradition of people orientation." One of these traditions came in the form of the "first assistant" philosophy of management. Each higher-level manager was to see himself or herself as serving the employees he or she managed. On the store level, this would mean that the manager would be the "first assistant" to the employees by making personal contact and taking personal interest, solving problems, suggesting solutions, and using flexibility in order to best serve the employees' concerns. Then the floor employees' duty was to be in service as the "first assistant" to the customers.

Jewel also was progressive in creating partnerships with vendors, at a time when the practice was rare.


  • These stores are now owned by Supervalu
    • Jewel-Osco and Jewel, Chicago Metro: 170
    • Jewel-Osco and Jewel, Central and Western Illinois, Eastern Iowa: 10
  • This store is now owned by an independent franchisee of Cub Foods in the Springfield area
    • Jewel-Osco, Springfield, Illinois: 1 (the other store, which had been acquired by Cerberus, has since closed)
  • All freestanding Osco stores (90 Illinois and Wisconsin) are now owned by CVS and were rebranded as CVS/pharmacy.

References in film

Jewel was mentioned in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding and can also be seen in the background of the famous mall car-chase scene of The Blues Brothers.

See also

Osco Drug for a history of Osco Drug.


External links

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