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How did it all start?
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In 1917 at the age of nineteen, Ervin G. Houchens opened his first grocery store in rural Kentucky. Houchens saw the potential of his small 12-foot by 20-foot building and within a few years of opening his first store it was branching out.
Despite the Depression and World War II Houchens was able to expand the company, always taking the lead in promoting his stores and utilizing the latest innovations and theories in grocery management.
The value of diversification was clear to Houchens, and by the mid-1940s Houchens was purchasing businesses related to the grocery industry. In 1945, he established the Houchens Foundation, a non-profit organization that has contributed millions of dollars to civic and religious organizations throughout the Houchens store communities. In the 1950ís Houchens began reaching outside of Kentucky for the first time, a trend that would continue and is instrumental to the growth of the organization
Upon Houchensí retirement in 1983 he sold the business to an outside organization. However, within five years the employees of Houchens reached a deal to buy back the company. This decision took employees only a short time to repay the acquisition debt and thus started Houchens Industries on their road to growth. Houchens Industries is now among the largest 100% employee-owned companies in the United States.
Today, Houchens Industries, Inc. is a diversified conglomerate wholly owned by its nearly 16,000 employee owners and has its corporate offices in Bowling Green, KY. Houchens has businesses in retail grocery and convenience stores, quick-to-service restaurants, insurance, stock brokerage and financial services, franchising of optical stores, construction, fence materials manufacturing and distribution, crushed stone aggregates and asphalt paving, recycling, tanning supply distribution, manufacturing, software and website development, property management and juice concentrate manufacturing and distribution.