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Houchens Industries: A Grocery Full Of Business

October 7, 2013

When you do your groceries you don’t only buy soap but my many different kinds of items. That may well describe Houchens Industries. It started off as a grocery store and over time diversified into different businesses.

When Ervin G. Houchens was 19 years old he opened his first grocery store in rural Kentucky. This was in 1917 and his store was a small 12 foot-by-20 foot building. The market was there though and within a few years Ervin was already branching out. He was able to grow the business through the Depression and WWII. Ervin also valued diversification and by the mid-1940s was already buying businesses related to the grocery industry.

When Houchens retired in 1983 he sold the business to another entity. Company employees made a deal and bought the company back in 1988. With the employees in charge they were able to pay the acquisition debt in a short period of time and the company continued its path of growth.

Diversification is still a theme followed by the company. Houchens Industries like a bag full of grocery is in a variety of businesses. It operates more than 150 supermarkets under the Houchens, Food Giant, IGA, Piggly Wiggly, Buehler Foods, White’s Fresh Foods, and Mad Butcher banners. It owns 220 Save-A-Lot discount grocery stores in a dozen states offering limited selections and floor areas of 15,000 sq. ft. or less.

Houchens is also into quick-to-order service restaurants, insurance, stock brokerage and financial services, franchising of optical stores, construction, fence materials manufacturing and distribution, crushed stone aggregates and asphalt paving, recycling, tanning supply distribution, manufacturing, software and website development, property management and juice concentrate manufacturing and distribution.

As you can see the conglomerate is in a varied number of businesses. What keep the company going and dynamic are its employees who own 100 percent of the firm. Houchens Industries with almost 16,000 employees is now one of the largest privately owned companies in the U.S.

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