Bernard Heinrich Kroger, Supermarket Founder
Facts and Events
||Bernard Heinrich Kroger, Supermarket Founder
||24 January 1860
||Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio
||28 April 1886
||Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohioto Mary Emily Jansen
||Palm Beach County, Floridato Alice Farrington Maher
||Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio, United States
||21 July 1938
||Cape Cod, Barnstable County, Massachusetts
Bernard Henry Kroger (January 24, 1860 – July 21, 1938), better known as Barney Kroger, was an American businessman who created the Kroger chain of supermarkets starting in 1883.
Kroger was born in Cincinnati, Ohio the fifth of ten children in a family of German immigrants. The family lived above a dry goods store that his parents owned, but Kroger was forced to go to work at age thirteen to help support his family. He quit his first job in a drug store because his religious mother objected to his working seven days a week. He then worked as a farmhand near Pleasant Plain, Ohio before contracting malaria and coming home.
Kroger then began working as a door to door salesman for the Great Northern and Pacific Tea Co., eventually ending up at the Imperial Tea Co. The grocery was not doing well, and the two owners made Kroger a manager. When the owners later refused to make Kroger a partner, he used his own money to open his own grocery store.
Kroger's store, The Great Western Tea Co., succeeded despite numerous growing pains and catastrophes. Kroger opened four separate locations within two years. He renamed the company Kroger Grocery and Baking Co. in 1902, later shortened to Kroger, and opened over 5,500 stores by the end of the 1920s. He is credited with introducing the low-cost grocery chain models that persist today.
Kroger also invested in the creation of Provident Bank, selling his holdings in the bank in 1928, shortly before the Wall Street Crash of 1929. During a bank crisis in 1933, he converted $15 million of his savings into cash and displayed it at the bank to demonstrate the financial soundness of the bank, averting the crisis locally.
Kroger was also involved in many charitable ventures, including the opening of parks, donations to zoos, and medical research.
Kroger died of a heart attack on July 21, 1938 in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, at the age of 78. He was buried in Cincinnati's Spring Grove Cemetery.
- source: Wikipedia
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Find A Grave.
Bernard Henry "Barney" Kroger
Birth: Jan. 24, 1860, Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio, USA
Death: Jul. 21, 1938, Cape Cod, Barnstable County, Massachusetts, USA
- Garrison, Zachary. Immigrant Entrepreneurship, Germany American Business Biographies.
After Bernard Heinrich Kroger (born January 24, 1860 in Cincinnati, OH; died July 21, 1938 in Cape Cod, MA), better known as “B.H.,” died in January 1938, praise for his business acumen and philanthropy could be heard in virtually every corner of his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. Though known nationally for his eponymous chain of wholesale grocery stores, Kroger, the son of German immigrants, was particularly celebrated locally, especially within the city’s prominent German-American community. For many, in a time of economic depression, Kroger represented a uniquely American brand of self-made prosperity, and he served as an example for other second- and third-generation German immigrants in Cincinnati. In an article published the year of his death, the Cincinnati Freie Presse emphasized that Kroger was “descended from German parents,” and was “highly valued as a businessman and human being.” But while the German-American community was understandably eager to claim him as one of their own, Kroger himself strove for assimilation and even exhibited a touch of amnesia with regard to his own ethnic roots. Tellingly, as his business outgrew “Over-the Rhine,” Cincinnati’s well-known German neighborhood, Bernard Heinrich became Barney Henry, and his business strategies moved beyond local tastes in an attempt to attract regional and national markets. Indeed, Kroger capitalized on America’s growing consumerism by buying wholesale and slashing prices, and by reaching a massive audience with his colorful and innovative advertising campaigns. By the end of World War I, the Kroger grocery store had evolved from a local neighborhood shop into a national business, and Bernard Kroger had become an American businessman.
Kroger was born in the American Midwest on the eve of the U.S. Civil War. His parents, however, spent much of their youth in Germany. Bernard’s father, Johan, arrived in America after leaving the Kingdom of Hanover at the age of ten in 1827. He lived in Baltimore before traveling down the Ohio River, working on flat boats in an attempt to save money and move west. Filled with ambition and expectation, he ultimately settled in Cincinnati, where he opened a small dry goods store. Above his place of business, Johan and his new wife, Mary, whom he had met in Cincinnati, lived in a small apartment. Mary Gertrude Kroger (née Schlebbe), Bernard’s mother, was born in Elve, a tiny village in Westphalia. Her family owned a small farm and produced household items for the local market, though, like many, they struggled on a daily basis. In 1837, Mary’s family decided to emigrate, hoping to purchase cheap land in the American West. Like many Westphalians, the Schlebbes seem to have been drawn to America by the reports of friends and family who had already emigrated – in their case, by former neighbors who sent letters describing their successes in America. Following the basic migration chain, Mary and her family arrived in Cincinnati but pushed on to the nearby German settlement of Minster, Ohio, after seeing recruitment posters that promised cheap land and a strong immigrant community. Their arrival, however, was marked by disappointment, since land speculators had already purchased nearly all of the usable farmland in Minster, leaving only low-level swamps and impenetrable forests. Within two years, Mary’s mother and father died of typhoid. Lacking any next of kin, Mary traveled back to Cincinnati to live as a domestic worker in the growing German community. It was there that she met and married Johan Kroger in 1850.
In later accounts, Bernard described his mother in reverent tones as a strict disciplinarian who was responsible both for the initial success of the family store and for instilling a sense of discipline in her children. One of nine children, Bernard was born on January 24, 1860, on the Western Row in Over-the-Rhine, a neighborhood then separated from the urban core of Cincinnati by the Miami-Erie Canal, which connected the Ohio River to Lake Erie. As a child, Kroger swam in the canal and ran around “the bottoms” of Over-the-Rhine. Named somewhat ironically after the iconic Rhine River so strongly associated with Germany, Over-the-Rhine served as a destination for Cincinnati’s German immigrants, many of whom had been drawn to the city by the promise of economic opportunities. Known as the “Queen City of the West,” Cincinnati had undergone rapid manufacturing and commercial growth in the early nineteenth century, and it dominated the flow of trade on the Ohio.
Though the Kroger family stayed well connected to the German immigrant community, Bernard, like many children of immigrants, attended a local, English-language, Protestant parochial school, where German was treated as a second language. Thus, while Kroger spent his early years surrounded by German immigrant culture, he also assimilated into the majority society. In an article on German-Americans in Cincinnati, “The Cincinnati Germans, 1870-1920; Disintegration of an Immigrant Community,” author G.A. Dobbert examined the formation of immigrant identity, which, as he noted, underwent “erosion by rapid assimilation” by the time the second generation was born. This trend toward assimilation was further strengthened in the 1870-80s, with the slowing of German immigration to Cincinnati. As a second-generation German-American who came of age during the “third wave,” or the last push of nineteenth century immigration (1865-1914), Bernard Kroger grew up in a strong German community in the 1860s; however, by the time Kroger’s business began to realize its potential at the turn of the century, that same community was fragmented and had dispersed throughout the city and its growing suburbs. Therefore, although Kroger began his career within the German-American community, he quickly pushed to transcend ethnicity and create an American company.
In his family life, B.H. kept those closest to him deeply involved in the operation of his first stores. His mother and older brother helped manage his initial expansion to locations in and around Cincinnati. At the age of twenty-five, after a long courtship, Kroger married Mary Emily Jansen, the daughter of German immigrants who had settled across the Ohio River in Newport, Kentucky.
Initially, Mary’s father proved reluctant to allow the young and not yet established grocer to pursue his daughter, but Kroger, who was nothing if not ambitious, refused to let up until his future father-in-law conceded. Together, the couple had seven children – three boys and four girls. Sadly, in 1899, both Mary and Kroger’s oldest son died of diphtheria, leaving behind a grieving family and a widowed B.H., who, from that point on, committed himself even more wholeheartedly to his business – ushering in a period of expansion and innovation at the Kroger Company. He kept up the furious pace of activity until 1928, when he slowed into retirement in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and married thirty-six-year-old Alice Flynn Maher, the daughter of a prominent Cincinnati family. He then gave each of his children $1.3 million (approximately $16.5 million in 2010) and advised them to make their own fortune. http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=49