Our Story

Proud Past. Bold Future.

An Employee Owned Organization with Global Prestige

Houchens Industries was originally founded in Glasgow, Kentucky, by Ervin G. Houchens in 1917 as Houchens Foods. A century later, Houchens Industries operates more than 300 retail grocery, convenience, and neighborhood market stores across 14 states. Complemented by a strong foundation of diverse companies, thirty-three in total and over 15,000 employees corporate-wide, Houchens Industries is one of the largest 100% employee-owned companies in the world.

Houchens Industries Timeline

Over 100 Years of History

1917

On New Year’s day in 1917, Ervin Houchens opens the first Houchens General Store in Barren County, Kentucky.

1919

In 1919, Ervin Houchens bought two acres of land and built a 40 ft. by 24 ft. store with a room in the back large enough for his bed.

1920

In 1920, Ervin married Eloise Bradshaw, and a year later, their daughter, Covella, was born.

1920's

Ervin and Eloise ran the store until 1928 when he left the store to become a farmer. But by the end of the decade, he was back in the grocery business. Houchens seized an opportunity to take over a bankrupt grocery store located in Glasgow, KY.

1931

Undaunted by the Great Depression, Ervin began expanding his enterprise with the addition of 3 more locations in Glasgow, KY.

1936

In 1936, the first out of town stores were opened in Munfordville and Scottsville, KY.

1939

Ervin Houchens opened his largest store yet in Bowling Green, KY. Here he introduced the “Self-Service” concept. This store made history with the first live broadcast of a radio program from a store in Bowling Green on WLBJ radio.

1945

In 1945 the Glasgow warehouse and store were destroyed by fire and the Houchens headquarters relocated to Bowling Green, KY.

The Houchens Foundation was established.

1940's

Expansion continues as more stores open in surrounding counties including Larue, Logan, and Monroe.

1950's

To keep up with the newly thriving U.S. economy, Ervin continued to add stores to his list of locations in order to sell at volume. This included his first out-of-state store in Lafayette, TN.

The 1950’s also introduced new technology such as key punch cards, retail packaged frozen foods and self-service meats.

1960

In 1960, Houchens launched the employee profit-sharing program. This program set aside 15% of each employee’s salary into a fun which would be fully vested in 15 years.

1960's

Growth continued at a rapid rate for the Houchens chain throughout the 60’s. New Houchens Market locations were introduced to 7 new towns including continued growth in Tennessee.

1970's

By the end of the 70’s, Houchens had 55 supermarkets in operation and it’s first plaza shopping center; the shopping center sold everything from groceries and hardware to medicine and variety items.

1972

The company’s name was changed to Houchens Industries, Inc.

1983

Ervin G. Houchens retires at the age of 85. Ruel Houchens becomes new president of Houchens Industries.

Mid-1980's

For a brief period of time in the mid-1980’s, Houchens was sold to Promodès, parent company of Chattanooga based Red Food Stores.

1988

On November 12th, Houchens employees bought back the company and established an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) and the company became 100% employee owned.

1990

In January of 1990, Houchens opens the first of many Save-A-Lot locations.

1992

Houchens Founder Ervin G. Houchens passes away leaving behind a legacy that changed the lives of thousands of people.

1993

After 25 years of service, Jimmie Gipson is elected President & Chief Executive Officer. A role he would fill until his retirement 27 years later in 2020.

1998

Houchens acquires 42 Jr. Food Store locations, a local convenience store chain.

1999

Southern Recycling, Inc is added to the list of Houchens owned subsidiaries.

2000

Stewart Richey Construction and Houchens Industries announce a merger.

Center of Insurance and Houchens Industries announce a merger.

2001

Houchens acquires Commonwealth Brands, a tobacco company that manufactures several popular brand labels including USA Gold and Sonoma.

2002

Metal storefront fixture manufacturer Pan-Oston joins the Houchens family of subsidiaries bringing along with them 500 employees.

2004

Food Giant joins the Houchens family, adding approximately 2500 employees and 90 supermarkets in 8 states.

2005

The first Crossroads IGA location opens in Rockfield, KY.

In April, 2005, Houchens closes a deal to acquire Scotty’s Contracting & Stone and TS Trucking in a double merger.

2007

Houchens announces the sale of Commonwealth Brands which positively impacts the ESOP for all Houchens employees.

Houchens opens it’s first Sonic Drive-Thru franchise locations in the Dayton, OH area.

Houchens adds Van Meter Insurance Group.

2008

The diversification continues with four more companies being added to the list of Houchens subsidiaries, Hilliard Lyons, Stephens Pipe & Steel, LLC., Tampico Beverages, Inc., and Cohen Fashion Optical, Inc.

2009

Houchens moves into the healthcare sphere with the acquisition of Sheldon’s Express Pharmacy.

2015

Franchised with Ace Hardware. The first Houchens owned Ace Hardware store opened on May 22, 2015. Since then, 25 additional Ace Hardware stores have opened with plans to open more locations in the near future. The Houchens owned locations recently took on the name “Ace Hardware Marketplace.” These “Marketplace” locations feature a curated list of boutique and national brands such as Big Green Egg, Simply Southern, and Vera Bradley that provide a little something for everyone.

2017

In 2017, Houchens celebrates its 100 year anniversary by hosting a birthday celebration for Houchens employees and their families. After a century of growth, Houchens boasts 18,000+ employees and is still 100% employee-owned.

2018

Sold Hilliard Lyons. In November 2018, HL Financial Services LLC, the parent company of Hilliard
Lyons merged with Baird, a wealth management company out of Wisconsin.

April 2020

After serving as the Vice President of Houchens Industries for 10 years, Dion Houchins is promoted to CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors. Mr. Houchins stated, “[His] number one priority is to ensure the Houchens Employee Stock Ownership Plan has a sustainable future.”

April 2021

Houchens buys Lee Masonry Products. On April 1, 2021, Houchens CEO, Dion Houchins, announced the merger of Lee Masonry Products into the Houchens ESOP. Lee Masonry has grown to operate 19 facilities in two states with more than 400 employees.

May 2021

Franchised with Slim Chickens. On May 19, 2021, the first franchised location of Slim Chickens opened alongside the first Crossroads Express to much fanfare and success. This is the first of several planned Slim Chickens locations in the Bowling Green, KY area.

August 2021

On Aug. 13, 2021, Southern Recycling, LLC was sold to Orange, California based
company SA Recycling.

October 2021

On Oct. 1, Houchens Insurance Group launches a major rebrand. Included in that rebrand is the culmination of the many independent insurance brands that live under the “HIG” umbrella. Moving forward, all insurance brands will be known
as HIG or Houchens Insurance Group.

January 2022

In January 2022, Houchens Industries, Inc. announced the acquisition of L. Thorn Company, Inc. by one of its wholly owned subsidiaries, Lee Masonry Products, Inc.

Looking Forward

Houchens Industries continues to focus on delivering exceptional customer service and improving employees’ lives. We plan to build off over a century of dedication and look forward to another century of growth and success.

Over 100 Years of History

A Portfolio for Success: The Story of Houchens Industries

We worked with the publisher, Bookhouse Group, to share the complete story of Houchens Industries' humble beginnings and renowned history. You can read the book online in its entirety free of charge.