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Jewel Food Store - Jewel Osco Supermarket

History and Locations

stores company illinois grocery

Jewel Osco grocery stores, not to be confused with the now closed Australian chain known as Jewel Food Store, currently has 185 locations in Illinois, Iowa, and Indiana. The chain is based out of Melrose Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.

The company has about 45,000 employees and holds about a 45% market share among grocery stores in Illinois. In the Chicago area, its market hold is strongest. About 80% of households in the greater Chicagoland visit a Jewel at least once per month. In 1972, several Jewel executives collaborated on a book called The Jewel Concepts. The book highlighted the company’s emphasis on “people orientation,” and the need to treat both employees and customers with dignity and respect.

The company’s history can be traced back to 1899, when Frank V. Skiff established a coffee delivery company that was soon called the Jewel Tea Company. The company continued to specialize in coffee through the early 20th century, building their own roasting plant and warehouse in the northern suburb of Barrington in 1929. In 1932, the company bought out Middle West Stores, which had four grocery stores in the Chicago area and Loblaw grocery stores, which had 72 locations, and soon the company became known as Jewel Food Stores. Throughout the middle part of the century, the company continued to expand, buying Eisner grocery stores in Illinois and Indiana and opening many new locations. In 1961, Jewel bought Osco drug stores and while some Jewel grocery stores and Osco drug stores were built side by side, the company eventually combined the two into one large store. The company also had locations in Wisconsin and Florida at times, but these are now closed.

In 2010, the stores stopped hiring separate managers for the food and drug stores, technically, however, Jewel and Osco continue to operate as separate departments both within the company and in individual stores. Since the purchase of Osco drug stores, the Jewel brand has been bought by American Stores (in 1984) and Albertsons (in 1999). In 2006, Albertsons was divided into several companies, and SuperValu now owns the Jewel brand.

Jewel Osco was in some ways one a pioneer in the bulk food store industry. The company opened a large store in the northwest part of Chicago in 1973 that it called the Jewel Grand Bazaar. The store, which covered a whole city block, was much like the modern warehouse stores, with foods available in bulk and frequent free samples. Another Jewel Grand Bazaar store opened in 1974, and a third in 1977. These stores were all replaced with regular Jewel Osco stores, with the last Grand Bazaar closing in 2003.

In addition to groceries in the Jewel side, and pharmaceutical and cosmetic products in the Osco side of the store, Jewel Osco stores in Illinois usually have a photo lab on site as well as a service desk that sells stamps and the “I PASS,” an electric transponder that consumers can use to pay tolls on the Illinois toll ways after registering and prepaying for their unit.

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