Michael Cullen, king of grocers, died so young 1

The home of Michael Cullen, founder of King Kullen Supermarkets, at 84-45 169 St. in Jamaica, as it appears today.

Michael Cullen, born in 1884, the son of Irish immigrants, went to work at age 18 in 1902 for the A&P grocery store chain. In 1919 he went to over to Kroger Stores and became a district manager. He had big ideas for growth and expansion but they fell on deaf ears.

In 1930 Cullen put his ideas to work in a big old garage at 171-06 Jamaica Ave., opening up his first supermarket. It was 10 times the size of any A&P, a huge success.

He bought a house at 84-45 169 St. in Jamaica for his wife, Nan, and their three sons, James, Robert and John. But at age 52 in April 1936 his appendix burst and peritonitis, a fungus infection, set in and killed the founder of King Kullen.

His brave wife then took the reins and ran the company with her young sons. In October 1940, a still young and attractive woman, she married William Blaney, owner of Federal Sweets & Biscuit Co. of New Jersey and moved with her sons to Great Neck, LI. She became a widow again in October 1962 and moved in with son John, who was now the CEO of the company, in Point Lookout, where she passed away in June 1975.

The Smithsonian Institution recognizes King Kullen as the first American modern supermarket. It is still operating today with 29 stores on Long Island and an annual $800 million in revenue.

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