Ragland Bros. History
Ragland Bros. Retail Cos. Inc. traces its beginnings back to 1922 with Ragland-Potter Wholesale Grocery. In June 1935, four Ragland brothers, Will, Butler, Harvey and Tom purchased Ragland-Potter in Knoxville, Tn. This purchase was financed by C.B. Ragland, Will's father-in-law, who operated a wholesale grocery in Nashville, Tn. Over time, up to 18 locations were opened for business covering from Murphy, NC over to Opelika and Huntsville, Al. Ragland Bros Co. as it was then known, was the first wholesaler in the Southeast to deliver general merchandise and groceries on trucks and to utilize computers for ordering and invoicing. Stores were supplied with metal roofing, bulk barrel flour and beans, nails, and many other items needed for households in that day.
Because of the demand for flour in the late 1930’s, Ragland Bros Co. joined with the Chattanooga Bakery family, better known for baking Moon Pies, to buy the Mountain City Mill Co. in downtown Chattanooga. A barge operation, named Tennessee Valley Barge Line was established by the Ragland family operating approximately 30 barges to carry wheat to the mill for processing and shipment.
During Wold War II, several warehouses were closed because of the need for men to fight in the war. This resulted in their consolidation into the remaining Chattanooga and Knoxville, Tn. and into the Huntsville, Opelika and Birmingham warehouses. In 1966, under the leadership of Will and Butler, a 175,000 square foot warehouse was opened in Huntsville to take advantage of improved road conditions and trucking capabilities which allowed all of Alabama, North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee to be serviced from this Alabama facility. The Birmingham warehouse was sold to brother Harvey and Opelika was later merged into the remaining Huntsville facility. In 1985, the wholesale operations, which supplied many independent supermarkets in the Southeast, was sold to Malone & Hyde Inc., a large national grocery wholesaler who relocated most of the warehouse assets from the Huntsville facility. The company, in 1979, under the leadership of Ed Ragland, son of Butler, developed a unique single unit pick operation for servicing convenience stores. This branch of the wholesale operation was also sold in 1985 to C. B. Ragland Co who continued this Huntsville operation servicing convenience stores over many states.
In 1952, Mr. Will, as he was called, diversified the company adding the operation of retail supermarkets to the company with the purchase of six J.W. Kirks Store in Chattanooga. The stores were renamed M&J Supermarkets, named after Ragland Bros Co. employees Millis Mulkey and J.H. Jackson who operated the newly formed retail division. The company’s retail locations expanded into Georgia and Alabama. In the early 1970’s under the direction of Bill Ragland, son of Mr. Will, M&J became one of the first in the southeast to introduce scanning to its customers. Over time, the stores in Tennessee and Georgia were sold to other Ragland Bros Co wholesale customers. The company continued to operate and the Alabama locations expanding into many small and medium sized market areas.
In 1979, Bill started the remodeling, expansion, and renaming of M&J to Lucky’s Supermarkets. This conversion to Lucky’s helped the stores compete in their market areas in an ever changing retail grocery environment. In 1984, following his graduation from the University of Alabama, Bill’s son Ward took over leadership of the retail company. Following the 1985 sale of the wholesale division, the company continued to operate its retail stores under an new corporate name, Lucky’s Supermarkets, Inc. In October 1996, eight Piggly Wiggly supermarkets in Alabama and Tennessee were purchased to add to the retail group. This acquisition gave the company need to change its corporate name to Ragland Bros Retail Cos Inc. Piggly Wiggly, often one of the most recognized franchise brands in the country, was originated by Clarence Saunders who originated the first self-service supermarket and the shopping cart. In 2010, the company developed a new “cost plus” concept to provide a lower margin store operation. Some of the existing stores were changed to this new concept named Stop to Save Supermarkets.
Until their deaths in 1981 and 1991 respectively, Butler and Mr. Will remained active in the company. They together with their sons, Ed (retired), Charles (deceased), and Bill (deceased), built a commitment to integrity and loyalty to their employees, suppliers, customers, and community that continues to serve as the company’s core belief today at Lucky’s, Piggly Wiggly, and Stop to Save Supermarkets.
Ward Ragland, president, remains committed to those core beliefs today and for tomorrow’s success of the company. He was joined in this by Darrell Bourne, treasurer from 1986 until his retirement in 2015. In 2013, Wards’ son, Will's became a 5th generation family member helping operate the company after acquiring Darrell’s ownership interest in the Huntsville based company.
Our goal is to make sure every customer is 100% satisfied with their shopping experience. Please contact us if you have any questions or comments. Our managers will try to assist you any way possible to achieve that goal.
Our Mission is to develop and manage supermarket operations which are characterized by a commitment to customer satisfaction, loyalty to our employees, ethical treatment of our suppliers, an equitable return for our investors, and active support of our communities. Above all else, we want to treat everyone the way we would want to be treated.
I. For Our Customers, We Are Committed To:
- Providing the highest quality products at competitive prices.
- Fast, personal customer service.
- Clean and well maintained facilities.
II. For Our Employees, We Are Committed To:
- The best combination of compensation, job security, flexibility and support.
- An atmosphere that fosters teamwork and trust.
- Promoting a leadership style based upon the principles of communication, recognition, consultation, participation, and accountability.
- The development of their job skills.
III. For Our Suppliers, We Are Committed To:
- Deal with them with integrity and fairness.
- Treat them as partners in our operations.
IV. For Our Investors, We Are Committed To:
- Performance standards and a fair return on their investment.
V. For Our Communities, We Are Committed To:
- Enhancing them with financial support and active participation.