Looking back, it's hard to believe that anyone's dream could survive. It was 1936 and the Great Depression had driven millions of Americans out of work. Paul D'Amour, at 30 years old, was full of entrepreneurial spirit. He was a bread route salesman, earning $60 each week at Wonder Bread Baking Co. Paul dreamed of owning his own business. With a family loan of $800–their entire savings–along with help from his brother Gerry, Paul purchased the Y Cash Market for $2,500.
1936 Y Cash Market
Paul D’Amour, 30 years old and full of entrepreneurial spirit, believed he could bring personal service, quality, value and commitment to the local community to a neighborhood on his bread route.
With a loan of $800 from his family, their entire savings, along with help from his brother, Gerry, Paul purchased the “Y Cash Market” for $2500 in Willimansett, a village of Chicopee, Massachusetts.
While Gerry was off to war, Paul kept the home fires burning, expanding a few doors down doubling the size of the original store so that he could offer his customers more. Though the war years were difficult, and shortages and ration stamps were part of everyday life, the end of the war years brought expansion.
In 1947, the brothers opened a second and larger store in a former bowling alley in the Aldenville section of Chicopee. To accommodate their customers who were looking for more variety, convenience and one-stop shopping, the brothers added frozen foods and other innovations in food packaging and storage to their stores.
The brothers invited a local radio station to broadcast a daily radio program from their supermarket with a focus on the local community. People liked the hometown atmosphere and that the Brothers focused on fresh, local produce and quality meats. And, as always, the emphasis was on personal service.
In 1952 the brothers took a radical step and opened a 10,000 square foot store, nearly twice as large as most grocery stores at the time. Because it was so much larger than typical markets in the area and was the first 'modern' supermarket in the city of Chicopee, the brothers settled on the name “Big Y Supermarket”.
Bouncing back from the shortages imposed during the war, the 1950s were an era of relative abundance, new choices and new variety. Modern supermarkets were in a better position to give consumers all they were looking for. Paul and Gerry quickly recognized that the era of the modern supermarket had arrived, sold their two smaller stores and began to establish supermarkets in other communities.
In 1960, Paul and Gerry opened a 31,000 square foot store, the largest supermarket in Western Massachusetts at the time and their first in Northampton. It also included a beer and wine department. Later, the beer and wine department would become the brothers first liquor store eventually evolving into the Table & Vine division.
Personalized service, fruits and vegetables from nearby local farms, and great values. Courtesy of the D’Amour brothers.
The 1970's heralded continued growth for Big Y despite competitive pressures, wage and price freezes on food retailers, and rising farm costs.
The decade also saw the second generation of D'Amour family become involved in the business guided by Paul and Gerry's principles of Value, Quality, Service and a Commitment to the Communities they served.
Private-label products begin to fill the shelves along with discounting trends.
Turning 50 years old in 1986, the company ranked #1 in Western Massachusetts with 22 stores and over 1600 employees. This led to the purchase of a store in Stafford bringing Big Y into Connecticut.
In an effort to accommodate is growing store count, Big Y purchased a 90,000 square foot distribution building on Tapley St in Springfield. Self-distribution and store growth presented more opportunities for staff and technicians to grow their careers with Big Y.
In tribute to both its employees and its customers, Big Y established an annual scholarship program to recognize academic merit and achievement. This continued Big Y's commitment to Education, a focus that continues today.
This period was also marked by further innovations such as computerized cash registers, electronic ordering systems, energy saving refrigeration equipment and shopper friendly store design.
After months of planning, the Express Savings Club was launched in October 1990. With it came national recognition for a program that eliminated in-store paper coupons while giving coupon savings on hundreds of items each week - all by simply scanning a card at the cash register. This innovative program once again put Big Y in the forefront of technological solutions.
Big Y went live on the World Wide Web with the release of “bigy.com” in 1998. Also in that year, after more than a year of demolition and construction, Big Y moved into its new 150,000 square foot home on Roosevelt Avenue in Springfield, MA. The Store Support Center and Distribution Center brought together the administrative, distribution and facilities management support functions in one centralized location.
In 2002, Big Y moved their liquor operation to West Springfield, MA when they acquired Town and Country Liquors. Changing the name to “Table & Vine”, this is the flagship location for the Big Y liquor division and is widely recognized as the preeminent fine wine, spirits and beer retailer in the Northeast.
In 2006, Big Y opened “Fresh Acres Market” in Springfield, MA. This is a truly unique fresh specialty market with an open-air produce market, in-store kitchen, specialty butcher shop and more.
Big Y opened it’s first Big Y Express gas and convenience store in 2013 in Lee, MA. Today there are over ten Big Y Express locations.
2019 also saw the expansion to a 425,000 square foot Fresh and Local Distribution Center. Designed to support Big Y's current and future growth, this expansion will help our more than 500 local partners provide a custom and fresh assortment to our customers.
Continuing the legacy of their grandfathers, Paul and Gerry, the third generation of D’Amour family is now committed to serving our customers and local communities.
With new stores recently opening in Derby and Milford, Connecticut, Big Y is poised to take on the challenges of the future. New technologies promise to revolutionize the delivery of fresh quality foods to our customers, reaffirming our founding principles of quality, service and commitment to the communities we serve.