World War II was over. Life in the United States was changing and so was America's need to deprive itself of material goods as it had during years of wartime rationing. A revved-up economy, pent-up demand, and a baby boom combined to create new opportunities. Consumers were buying homes, cars, appliances, and even shopping for groceries differently; increasingly, the then-new supermarket chain stores were emerging to challenge local independent markets.
A small group of New Hampshire Independent Retailers recognized the change that was taking place and decided to form a buying group. Eighteen Independent Retailers held a clear vision of the future. Together, without giving up their individual identities, they could strengthen their own independence and better compete in the marketplace. But at the outset, the idea was all they had: there was no warehouse, no personnel, not a single company truck. Group buying began and wholesale shipments arrived at a public railroad siding where individual orders were divided up and then transported back to the stores by each owner.
The benefits of group buying were immediate, but it soon became obvious that more could be accomplished with a centralized warehouse where purchased goods could be stored until needed.
With the purchase of Dickerson and Company, an existing wholesale grocery operation in Concord, New Hampshire, the company was formed as New Hampshire Wholesale Grocers. Soon thereafter the decision was made to form a closed cooperative and the company name was changed to Associated Grocers of New Hampshire.
More independent grocers joined the group; within four years, operations moved to a four-times-larger warehouse in Manchester, New Hampshire. (You can still see the old Varick Building on Auburn Street, near the Verizon Wireless Arena.) By then, the cooperative had extended its reach beyond New Hampshire and in just six years sales increased by 500 percent.
In 1956, a new, larger, modern Distribution Center was built from the ground up off of South Willow Street in what was then the outskirts of Manchester. At 217,000 square feet, complete with a railroad siding, this was the largest, single-floor warehouse in northern New England at the time. The Gold Street site served AG New England well for the next half century.
Through a number of additions and expansions, the Distribution Center would more than double in size over the years. Growth in customers and depth of products continued and a broad array of specialized support services and technologies were developed to serve the changing needs of retailers.
Eventually it became clear that more space was needed to keep pace with growth and take full advantage of the latest technologies and potential efficiencies. In early 2006, AG New England moved to a newly constructed 380,000-square-foot Distribution Center in Pembroke, New Hampshire.
With the Distribution Center located near the geographic center of New England, the company serves stores across the six-state region and into the Upstate New York/Albany area.
The current facility was constructed on a 74-acre site that makes possible future expansion to as much as 650,000 square feet. Incorporating state-of-the-art technology in receiving, handling, storing, and shipping has allowed the cooperative to maintain an exceptionally high service level and a consistently on-time store delivery record. Precise climate control ensures ideal conditions for all products. The center also houses a test kitchen as well as meeting and training rooms.