The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc. was founded by George Gilman in 1850 as Gilman & Company as a leather tanning business. After Gilman’s father died he entered the coffee and tea business, turning the tanning business over to his brother.
Originally Gilman & Company was a wholesaler, but in 1863 the company entered retail, changing the name to the Great American Tea Company. By acting as both wholesaler and retailer, the company was able to offer low prices and quickly expanded.
In 1878 the company had 70 stores, in 1915 1,600 stores, and in 1925 13,961 stores.
A&P suffered greatly during a backlash against chain stores during the Great Depression, but ultimately survived.
In the 1950’s A&P began a dramatic downward spiral, which began a 50-year fall from the world’s largest retailer to bankruptcy.
In 2000 the company was down to 500 stores. In 2010 with its stock trading at less than $1, A&P filed for bankruptcy. The company emerged from bankruptcy a privately-held company with 300 stores.
Today A&P is a supermarket and liquor store chain. Its liquor stores operate under the name Best Cellars. Its supermarkets operate under the names A&P, Food Basics, The Food Emporium, PathMark, superfresh, and Waldbaums. A&P has 28,500 employees and had $6.7 billion in profit in 2012.
The company filed for bankruptcy in July of 2015 and closed all locations by November 2015, going out of business permanently.