.Our Story

 

It all started in 1915. Founded and operated with core values such as hard work, family, and a principle of serving the customer first, Star Market has become the iconic grocery chain that it is today. We’re proud to say that almost a century later those values continue to shine incredibly bright at Star Market.

We invite you to… see what makes us shine!

Serving The Best With Pride Since 1915: 

Star Market - Watertown, MA

Original Watertown, MA Star Market – Circa 1915

Sarkis DerMugardichian first journeyed to America in 1895. Not long after, he returned to his native Armenia, married and had three children. In 1906, fleeing Turkish persecution in their Armenian homeland, Sarkis and Vosgitel DerMugarichian gathered their young family and a few personal belongings and headed for a new start in America. Upon arrival, Sarkis brought his family to Watertown, where other family members had settled and became a chef at his brother’s restaurant, Mugar’s Cafe, in the South End of Boston. Since the original family name didn’t fit on the restaurant sign, it was shortened to its present form of Mugar.

One of Sarkis Mugar’s friends owned a store in Watertown, MA named Star. At first, Sarkis worked there for free in an attempt to learn the retail trade. Then, when presented with the opportunity to buy the store, he borrowed $900 from nine relatives and bought it in 1915. The whole family – father, mother, son and three daughters plus a few uncles – worked in this first store in the Star Market chain. Although the store was mainly a meat market, his son Stephen came up with the good merchandising idea of adding a few groceries and biscuits. With this mix, the store’s sales were around $350 a week.

Stephen’s marketing genius surfaced again shortly. When only 17 years old, Stephen got the idea to advertise. He had approximately 1,000 ads printed up and personally set out to ring doorbells. Once somebody answered he would say “Here’s a dollar for you. That’s how much you’ll save if you take advantage of these specials.”  When you realize the value of a dollar at that time it becomes evident what a clever technique this was. In the first week after the ad, business zoomed to $1,000 a week and Star began running specials on a regular basis.

Original Watertown, MA Star Market - circa 1915

Original Watertown, MA Star Market – circa 1915

Due to his father’s death in an auto accident, Stephen began working at the store full time in 1922. Although he generally worked 16-18 hours a day, he was never too busy to find time for the customer. It was Stephen Mugar who instituted the customer oriented philosophy that is still prevalent at Star today. It was his theory that if you “take good care of the customer, the customer will take care of you.” Home delivery was an important part of this concept. Customers could phone in orders in the afternoon and receive their product the following morning – even if they ordered a competitor’s product, like A&P coffee! Soon Star was recognized for the little extras preformed by its employees. For example, if a deliveryman noticed just emptied trash barrels in front of a house, he would carry them around back as a gesture of goodwill. Or, if he knew the customer had a dog, he would
get a fresh bone from the meat department
to present to the dog’s owner. Star Market quickly
became a community institution.

Wellesley, MA - Star Market Circa 1940

Wellesley, MA – Star Market – Circa 1940

Having confidence in his ability to work, and  being unable to expand the Watertown store any further, Stephen decided to open a second store during the height of the Depression. Soon a third store opened in Wellesley and then another in Newtonville – directly across the street from the old store. Billed as the most modern supermarket in New England, the new store was built without posts, following an airplane hangar design. This design was chosen for the building so that it could be turned into a movie theater if the store failed. But, it did not fail. Instead, it served as a prototype for the industry, introducing one-stop, self service shopping. Unfortunately, government plans for the Turnpike Extension went right through this store. As the excavation for the road began, Stephen applied for air rights to build a market over the highway and after a lengthy court battle, the Massachusetts Supreme court ruled in his favor. This made the new, third Newtonville store the only store in the nation to be built with air rights.

In 1932, John M. Mugar (Stephen Mugar’s cousin), took a full-time job working at Star Market. John worked at Star Market for a year before deciding to return to school where he attended Berkeley Prep and earned valedictorian distinction. He then attended Tuft’s University, where he earned his degree in Economics and graduated magna cum laude in 1937. That year John returned to Star Market and was appointed treasurer, reducing company expenses by 30%. John became vice-president of Star Market in 1940 and would eventually be appointed president and then chairman of the board. During this time Star Market grew from a small chain of three stores to a well-known supermarket brand in New England consisting of more than sixty stores. Under John’s leadership, Star Market unveiled many firsts in the supermarket industry, including unit pricing, meats wrapped in cellophane, in-store banks and florists, and also conveyor belts for carrying bags of groceries to the parking lot. John’s also credited with instituting many employee benefit programs such as a work/study program, profit-sharing and retirement programs for full and part-time employees.

The flurry of activity during the 1950’s and 1960’s was furious. There were many additional accomplishments and “firsts” that were achieved. Here is just a partial list: first in N.E. with touch system for cashiers; first to refrigerate cooked foods; self service meats; wrapped produce; profit sharing; paid vacations. Amidst these trendsetting discoveries, Star’s expansion accelerated. The ’50’s and ’60’s brought a rash of store openings, including Stella d’Italia, Star’s first international store in Italy. It was also during this time frame that Star became the eastern most member of the Jewel Companies, another successful chain that believed in sharing the business with the employees.

The seventies and eighties brought continued growth, although the pace was notably slowed by the nation’s unstable economic conditions. In an effort to balance the decline of store openings, Star expanded into the wholesale market, becoming a supplier for independently owned Star stores. Since its inception in 1978, the wholesale or agency division has grown rapidly.

In 1984, Jewel was acquired by the Utah based American Stores Company. The acquisition made Star a part of the third largest retailing food company in the United States. With this strong backing and its dedication to “Serving the best with Pride”, Star Market can look back on the past with pride and look forward to future accomplishments in the decades to come.

Serving The Best With Pride

Star Market: A Timeline of our History

 Sarkis Mugar in 1915 purchased “Star Market” in Watertown, Massachusetts for $900.  At the time Star was primarily a meat market and Sarkis’s son Stephen had an idea to include staple grocery items.  Betting on his son’s idea Sarkis added grocery items to the store and sales immediately grew to $350 per week.

In 1922, following a tragic car accident which resulted in the death of Sarkis, Stephen Mugar at just 17 years old became the key operator of Star.  Stephen each and every day instilled the philosophy of “take good care of the customer and the customer will take good care of you”.

Unable to expand his Watertown store Stephen decided to open another store.  In 1948 he built the Newtonville and it was very unique as it was built without posts (similar to an airplane hangar).  Stephen did this so that he could convert the building to a movie theater in the event that the store ever failed.  Fortunately, Stephen was successful and the store did not fail.

With rapid growth to the region, Stephen was faced with a major challenge when government plans for the turnpike extension went right through this store.  Stephen applied for air rights to build a market right over the highway and after a lengthy court battle the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in his favor. This led to the third store located in Newtonville and the only store in the nation to be built on air rights.

In 1937 John M. Mugar returned to Star Market and was appointed treasurer, reducing company expenses by 30%.

In 1940, John M. Mugar became vice-president of Star Market and would eventually be appointed president and then chairman of the board. During this time Star Market grew from a small chain of three stores to a well-known supermarket brand in New England consisting of more than sixty stores.

The 1950’s and 60’s were a period of accelerated expansion and new beginnings for Star. This included:

  • Touch systems for cashiers
  • Refrigerated cooked foods
  • Self-service meats
  • Wrapped produce
  • Profit sharing
  • Paid vacations
  • Bundle pick up which included a conveyor belt system that moved groceries to a central loading point for customer pick-up

In 1964 Star Market merged with Chicago’s Jewel Tea Company and as a result a new brand, Star Osco, was born.

Things did not slow down during the 1970’s and 1980’s as Star entered wholesale business and served as a supplier for independently owned Star Markets.  Additionally Jewel was purchased by American Stores and at this time the Star Osco brand was returned back to simply “Star Market”.

In 1994, Invest Corporation purchased Star Market and hired Henry Nasella who at the time was the President of Staples.  Following this, Star continued to expand and introduced Wild Harvest.

1999 – Star Market is purchased by Sainsbury’s and becomes part of Shaws

2004 – Albertson’s purchases Shaw’s / Star Market

2006 – Supervalu purchases Shaw’s  / Star Market

2012 – Albertson’s NAI / Cerberus purchases Shaw’s / Star Market

Star Market Today – In 2013, our parent company, AB Acquisition LLC, acquired Star Market from SUPERVALU, a transaction that brought all Albertsons stores under singular ownership again and added Jewel-Osco, ACME Markets, and Shaw’s to the growing food and drug retailer. Today, as part of the company’s Shaw’s division, they operate 154 stores throughout New England, which is part of a 2,200+ store operation that employs approximately 265,000 people nationwide.

All of our stores, no matter what banner they operate under, were founded around the philosophy of offering customers the products they wanted to buy at a fair price, with lots of tender, loving care. We still open our doors every day today with that in mind, and because of it, we run really great stores.

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