George Albert Ralphs, Supermarket Founder
Facts and Events
- the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia
George Albert Ralphs (September 23, 1850 – June 21, 1914) was an American businessman. He founded the Ralphs supermarket chain in Southern California, with the help of his brother Walter.
About George A. Ralphs
- George A. Ralphs was born on Sept. 23, 1850, in Joplin, Missouri, the second of eight children of English immigrants Richard and Mary Newell Ralphs. When he was a young boy, his parents decided to move to California, so they set off in a covered wagon with five yoke of oxen. In Kansas, they joined up with a west-bound caravan. When the caravan reached Colorado, they were attacked by Indians. Half of the caravan split off, and they were assumed to have been killed by the Indians. After 18 months of travel, the Ralphs family finally arrived in Los Angeles. Shortly after arriving, George Ralphs learned the trade of bricklaying, and he was soon recognized in competitions as the champion bricklayer in California, and worked on many buildings in Los Angeles. After he lost an arm in a freak hunting accident, he had to give up the bricklaying trade, reset his sights on the grocery business, and went to work as a clerk in a grocery store at the corner of Fifth and Hill streets in downtown Los Angeles.
- With his savings and experience in the grocery business, George A. Ralphs and a partner opened their own store at the corner of Sixth and Spring streets in downtown Los Angeles in 1873. After being in business together for two years, Ralphs and his partner had a disagreement over the operation of the store, so the partner gave Ralphs an ultimatum -- Ralphs could either buy him out for $1,100, or the partner would buy Ralphs out for the same amount. Ralphs didn't have the $1,100, but his younger brother, Walter B. Ralphs, who owned a successful ranch near San Bernardino, did. So Walter bought out the partner, and the business became "Ralphs Brothers Grocers".
- In 1909, the company was formally incorporated as Ralphs Grocery Company, and two years afterward they finally opened a second store, located “way out in the country” (as the Los Angeles Times later put it) at the corner of Pico Boulevard and Normandie Avenue. A third store was established at 2601 Pasadena Avenue and a fourth at Vermont Avenue and 35th Street, part of Ralphs’ gradual growth over the next two decades, reaching a tally of ten units by 1928.
- In June 1914, Ralphs, his wife and their two youngest children, Albert and Annabelle, went for a weekend outing in the San Bernardino Mountains, north of Arrowhead, Calif. On the morning of June 21, 1914, the family went for a hike in Waterman Canyon. Ralphs walked ahead of the others and sat on a large boulder to await the arrival of his wife and children. As Ralphs was helping his wife up to sit beside him, the three-ton boulder gave way and rolled 20 feet down into the canyon, carrying Ralphs with it. His left leg was crushed beneath the boulder and nearly torn from its socket. Ralphs, 63, was taken to Ramona Hospital in San Bernardino, where his left leg was amputated. Following the surgery, Ralphs regained consciousness for a short time and spoke to his wife, but he died about an hour later. At the time of his death, Ralphs owned three of the largest grocery stores in Los Angeles. Funeral services were held at Ralphs' home at 7269 Hollywood Boulevard, with burial at Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles.
Growth of Ralphs Supermarkets
- As he died in 1914, George Ralphs didn't get to enjoy the growth and success of the company he founded. The Ralphs grocery chain grew to 10 stores by 1928, 25 stores in the 1930s, and more than 100 stores in the 1950s. In 1968, the Ralphs chain was purchased by Federated Departent Stores for $60 million, and after several subsequent ownership changes in the 1980's and 1990's, was acquired by Cincinnati, Ohio-based Kroger Company in 1999. Ralphs Grocery Company, now with with more than 250 supermarkets, is the oldest grocery chain west of the Mississippi River, and is currently the largest supermarket chain in California.
- On July 23, 1896, 46-year-old George Ralphs married 23-year-old Wallula Von Keith, known as "Lula," the London-born daughter of J.H. Von Keith, a popular California artist. The Ralphs had three children -- Minnie, Albert George and Annabelle. Ralphs left an estate of $600,000 (about $13 million in 2010), divided among his widow and three children. His son, Albert, received his father's automobile, gold watch and his stock in the Ralphs Grocery Company.
Information on George A. Ralphs
- From A history of California and an extended history of Los Angeles and environs, Vol. 2, by James Miller Guinn, pub. 1915:
- GEORGE A. RALPHS. When the Ralphs family disposed of their interests in Missouri and made the long journey to California with the anticipation of making a permanent home, George A. Ralphs was still a lad, and he often recalled with interest the exciting incidents of the trip. Setting out from Missouri with a prairie schooner and five yoke of oxen, the little party joined a caravan in Kansas, and all went well until Colorado was reached, when the party was attacked by that foe of the frontier, the Indian. About one-half of the party was detailed to fight the Indians and the other half to remain guard to the women and children and supplies. The fate of the first-mentioned band of men still remains unexplained, for nothing was ever seen or heard of them after they left their companions, and it is believed beyond question of a doubt that they were massacred by the Indians. It was with feelings mingled with fear and courage that the remainder of the party set out once more on the journey that was to bring them to the west, and it is needless to mention that when the Ralphs party reached San Bernardino they had good cause for thanksgiving, for it had been eighteen months since they set out from Missouri.
- George A. Ralphs was born in Joplin, Mo., September 23, 1850. Shortly after arriving in Los Angeles he turned his attention to learning the brick-layer's trade, and many of the early structures in the city bear evidence of his handiwork. In his trade he became an expert and was hailed as the champion bricklayer of the state, many times vanquishing contenders for honors in open competition. Later he met with a severe accident which cost him one of his hands and in consequence he was obliged to give up his trade and start life anew. Courageous in spite of this handicap, he secured a position as a grocery clerk in a small store at Fifth and Hill streets, and by economically saving his earnings he was enabled in 1877 to purchase in partnership with a Mr. Francis a small grocery store at Sixth and Spring streets, where business was conducted under the firm name of Ralphs & Francis. Two years later, in 1879, Mr. Francis's interests were purchased by Walter B. Ralphs, a brother of the senioi partner, and business was continued under the name of Ralphs Brothers for a number of years. From the first they prospered and their interests grew with astonishing rapidity, until they reached the splendid proportions of the present time, including three of the largest retail grocery stores in the city, which rank second to none in the quality of their goods and service. In 1909 the business was incorporated as the Ralphs Grocery Company and has since continued under that name.
- The marriage of Mr. Ralphs and Miss Wallula Von Keith was solemnized in Los Angeles, July 23, 1896, and they became the parents of two children, a son and daughter, George Albert, Jr., and Annabell. The father of Mrs. Ralphs was Prof. J. H. Von Keith, the well known California artist.
- The cause of Mr. Ralphs' death, June 21, 1914, was a regrettable accident which occurred in the San Bernardino canyon, back of Arrowhead Hot Springs Hotel, where the family had gone for the week-end. While wandering up the canyon for a morning stroll Mr. Ralphs seated himself on a boulder beside the trail, and in attempting to assist his wife to a place beside him, dislodged a huge stone which had been the support of the boulder and it rolled down the mountain side, carrying him with it. One leg was caught under the boulder and severely injured. He was immediately rushed to the Ramona Hospital at San Bernardino and every effort was made to save his life, but the shock proved too severe for his weak heart and he did not survive the operation.
- In the death of Mr. Ralphs Los Angeles suffered a severe loss, for he was a man of high principles and sterling worth, capable, energetic and of the highest standard of integrity. No stronger testimony of the regard in which he was held by his associates could be given than is expressed in the following letter of sympathy to his family, signed by thirty-two of his co-laborers on the trial jury: "Whereas, it has pleased Almighty God to remove from our midst our associate and friend, George A. Ralphs, we, as members of the Trial Term Jury in the District Court of the United States, desire to convey by these resolutions to the afflicted widow, children and family of Mr. Ralphs, our heartfelt sympathy in the great loss they have sustained.
- "Associated with Mr. Ralphs as we have been during the past four months, we have formed an estimate of his character which has placed him in the front rank of the best citizens of this community, where he has lived for half a century, and marked him as an efficient, intelligent, painstaking and conscientious man, whose views of duty were reflected by his remarks when asked why, with abundant reasons therefor, he did not ask to be excused, said: -I feel it to be my duty as a citizen to serve when called and do not care to ask the Court to excuse me.'
- "In the death of Mr. Ralphs this community has lost one of its best citizens, and we feel that all who knew him will join us in saying, -May God rest his soul and give consolation to his bereaved family.'"
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 George Ralphs, in Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. (Online: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.).