The man credited with starting the first supermarket — right here in Queens — was Michael J. Cullen (1884-1936).
An early directory listed him as living with his wife on 169th Street in Jamaica, with his occupation as “butcher.” But that all changed when he launched his first supermarket venture at 171-06 Jamaica Ave.
A second store, in Long Island City, followed shortly. At the time, that was a mere drop in the bucket compared to Cullen’s Brooklyn-based rival grocer, Henry C. Bohack, who had more than 100 locations. But King Kullen survives today, while Bohack disappeared in the ’70s.
Cullen’s first headquarters and warehouse were at 210-10 Jamaica Ave., followed by a move to 178-02 Liberty Ave., where the company was stationed for nearly 30 years.
After the death of Michael J. Cullen in 1936, his widow became head on the company on paper, but it was their son James A. Cullen who advanced King Kullen to a whole new level. He recognized that people were moving to Long Island and that the supermarket’s future also lay to the east. Eventually the firm’s main office and warehouse were moved to Westbury, and later Bethpage. Today King Kullen has 40 stores on the Island and, as of 2010, was doing an estimated $940 million in business a year.
There will be a Forest Hills photo history exhibit opening reception from 5 to 11 p.m. on Sunday, July 1 at Jade Eatery and Lounge, located in the Forest Hills Inn at 1 Station Square. All are welcome to come and enjoy the reception.