Lowell Since '45

Demoulas Grocery: An Immigrant's Story

Demoulas: An Immigrant's Story

The municipal parking lot that stands at 80 Dummer Street is the former location of the first DeMoulas grocery store. The tale of Arthur DeMoulas is right out of the immigrant success story playbook. In 1906, at age 23, Arthur DeMoulas got off the boat from his native Greece, worked for a time at the Lowell Tannery and then got a toehold on the American dream when he opened a small grocery in 17. Working daily 14-hour shifts, Demoulas figured fresh meats would give him a leg up on his competition, so he did what any enterprising young man would do ---- bought a local farm and talked his wife into helping to butcher the animals. Cows, sheep, goats, ducks and pigs soon were meeting their fate inside a 12 by 12-foot slaughterhouse that the family DeMoulas operated out on Totman Road in Dracut.

Back at the grocery, mill workers were soon stopping by DeMoulas each morning to pick up authentic Greek Loukaniko from wife Efrosyne that had been prepared from the fresh-killed lambs out in Dracut. Or if that was not close enough to the source, customers could pick out one of the live chickens kept in a cage outside the store, and have it killed, plucked and stuffed to bring home in a newspaper wrapping.

By 1950, as was the custom in the grocery business in those years, the DeMoulas sons renovated the old shop and put up a newfangled supermarket. In a full page ad in the Lowell Sun, brimming with exclamation points, they called the new self-service superette a “one stop shopping center” and “truly the store of tomorrow.” Indeed, the new store boasted of an assortment of new-fangled features that one doesn’t think twice about these days such as “magic carpet doors” and “music while you shop” as well as services you won’t find much anymore like “page boy service.” The ad also included the perhaps logical special of five pounds of sugar sold at 9 cents and paired with a free economy-sized Gleem toothpaste.

Years later, Arthur’s son Telemachus DeMoulas, better known as Michael, would become one of the richest men in the state and that first DeMoulas store would become the seed that would grow into the $4.6 billion chain store known as Market Basket.   

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