Frank Aloysius Kennedy started out his retail career as a window dresser for Jacobson’s and later he managed Kinney Shoe Stores. He opened the first Polly’s Food Service in 1934. The store was located on the corner of First and Franklin in Jackson, MI. His son F.A. Kennedy later renamed it Frank’s Finer Foods and it remained under the operation of members of the Kennedy family up until 2005.
Frank Aloysius considered himself quite the marketer. His first store featured a live parrot that greeted the customers. I bet you can guess the name of that parrot. Unfortunately the Health Department outlawed live birds in food stores. But Polly has lived on as the company’s namesake and mascot.
In the next ten years, the company grew to five locations. The other four stores were located at W. Ganson and N. West, Cooper and Ganson (now a Family Dollar Store), High and Francis and Francis and Biddle. Food retailing in the forties consisted of neighborhood stores. Most housewives did not have a car at their disposal and stores needed to be in walking distance of their home. In the late 40’s the local grocer’s association had over 270 members. You never had to walk more than ten blocks to get to the closest one.
We have fond memories for these first stores. Our father would get up at 4:00 AM on Saturdays for the weekly trip to the Eastern Market. He would buy a semi load of produce and bring it back and distribute it to the stores. The stores did most of the processing in the basements.
Frank Aloysius Kennedy died in 1954 and his son F.A. Kennedy, at the age of twenty-seven took over the business. With the end of the war, Jackson prospered and the food retailing business changed forever. Subdivisions sprung up further and further from the central business district. More and more housewives were driving. Stores no longer could rely on customers being a captive of the neighborhood. They needed more and more land to accommodate larger stores with adequate parking space for all the new cars.
F.A. Kennedy, like his father was a visionary. He knew that the neighborhood corner store had run its course. So in the late 50’s he started buying land on the outskirts of town for new stores. In 1958 he opened a supermarket in Jackson’s first strip shopping center. It was located on the corner of Prospect and Francis. In the early sixties he opened another store next to the new Shoppers Fair (Jackson’s first big box store) on N. West and Argyle. The location is was last home to ABC Warehouse and Blockbusters Video. In 1971 he opened the store on Spring Arbor Rd. It featured an in-store pharmacy, gift shop, snack bar, dry cleaning pickup, wine cellar, scratch bakery and many other novel features.
F.A. Kennedy died in September of 2000 just before we opened the store on Parnall and Lansing Ave. Nine of his ten surviving children are or have been actively involved in one capacity or another in the business today. We now operate seven supermarkets located in Jackson, Vandercook Lake, Brooklyn, Adrian, and Chelsea. We currently employ about a thousand people.