Harris Teeter started out as two independent grocery stores. In 1939, Willis L. Teeter and his brother Paul opened Teeters Food Mart in Mooresville with a $1,7000 loan. In 1949, W. T. Harris opened his own grocery store in Charlotte with a $500 loan. On February 1, 1960 both stores consolidated to form Harris Teeter Supermarkets, Inc. and opened with fifteen stores. The first store opened in Kannapolis, NC. By 1963, Harris Teeter operated twenty-five stores and subsequently bought five stores from Tillman’s Grocery and two small stores in Charlotte and Gastonia.
In 1969, holding company Ruddick bought Harris Teeter, and grocery store chain, Food World in 1984, which had 52 stores and 3,000 employees. By merging, Harris Teeter expanded to four states with 7,000 employees and became the second largest grocery store in North Carolina. In 1988, Harris Teeter acquired an additional 52 stores through purchasing several Big Star supermarkets and a Grand Union Company warehouse. Two years later Harris Teeter obtained Borden Dairy Plant and began selling more dairy products.
In 1991, Harris Teeter added a freezer facility and nonperishable storage facility in Greensboro. In the early 1990s Harris Teeters headquarters moved to Matthews, NC and the company expanded its market by opening its first Georgia store in 1993. By 1994, Harris Teeter preferred stores between 33,000 and 50,000 square feet. Customers were predominantly upper-middle class and urban.
During this time, Harris Teeter emphasized a wide array of food items, such as a variety of meats, salad dressings, fruits, and vegetables. Stores began including deli with chefs, a bakery, and a salad bar. Some stores even included freshly made omelets and coffee for breakfast. Harris Teeter does not carry general merchandise such as greeting cards nor do stores have pharmacies. The company’s emphasis is offering a wide selection of food. In the mid-1990s Harris Teeter started its “Very Important Customer Program,” in which discounts are given to frequent customers. Meanwhile, Harris Teeter expanded its community outreach by sponsoring charities, donations, scholarship programs, and food banks.
By 2000, competition forced Harris Teeter to close its Atlanta market and sell several South Carolina stores. Inventory controls were also instilled to eliminate waste and to lower prices. Harris Teeter remained successful and in 2002 opened its Rancher Beef Program providing consumers with a wide array of fresh beefs.
Harris Teeter continues to serve customers and remains the largest supermarket chain in North Carolina. As of fiscal year 2011, Harris Teeter garnered $4.3 billion in revenues.