Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : National Tea Co.
National Tea Co.

National Tea Co.

Beginning with one store on North Avenue in 1899, National Tea became the region's largest retail grocery chain. By 1920, when there were about 160 stores in the chain, annual sales approached $13 million. By the end of the 1920s, National Tea had over 600 locations in the Chicago area and another 1,000 stores nationwide; sales had grown to about $90 million a year. Many of these stores were closed or sold during the Great Depression, but National Tea remained among the 10 largest grocery chains in the United States for most of the twentieth century. During the 1950s, it acquired about 500 new stores by buying up smaller chains. In 1956, when annual sales topped $600 million and the company had nearly 20,000 employees nationwide, National Tea was purchased by George Weston Ltd., a Canadian company. There was little growth during the 1960s, when the company operated about 240 stores in the Chicago area (where it had fallen behind Jewel as the number one chain). During the mid-1970s, when it still employed about 9,000 people around the region, National Tea/George Weston suddenly abandoned the Chicago grocery market. By the end of the century, there was little trace remaining of what had once stood as one of the area's leading enterprises and the source of groceries for a large fraction of Chicago's population.