Brief History of the 1st Health Food Store in U.S.

Founded and local since 1869, Martindale’s is known as the first health food store in the United States. We choose to positively affect the earth by selling organic, local, fair trade and ethically processed natural foods and products.


Establishes 1st Grocery

Thomas Martindale – Merchant, Civic Leader, Big Game Hunter, Author

Thomas Martindale established the first grocery store in Oil City, PA in 1869. The first thing he did was to have a checkered front painted on the store. A fountain was installed in the front window with goldfish. The spray of water played down upon a variety of vegetables such as lettuce, radishes, and watercress. In 1875 the store was moved to Philadelphia. Thomas Martindale asserts, “We aim to cater for and appeal to all who eat”.

Image Source: Sport Royal, I Warrant You! 1897


Martindale Pioneers Food Consciousness

Thomas C. Martindale – Pioneer, Advocate, Teacher

Thomas C. Martindale began importing diabetic foods in 1909 while working in his father’s business. This action was the forerunner of the dietary foods business and placed Martindale’s establishment as one of the oldest, if not the oldest, dietary food store in the U.S. Thomas C. was passionate about nutrition and is recognized as one of the pioneers advocating, promoting, and teaching “food consciousness”. People came into the store to discuss their health and dietary problems with him. His idea of health food was simple: eat whole grains, whole wheat, and fiber, while eliminating sugar and junk food.

1909 photo of Thomas C. Martindale

Martindale's Serves Vegetables: Raw, Cooked, and Juiced

In 1920 the store moved to a four-story building at 10th & Filbert Streets where natural foods and special diet dishes were served in its restaurant. It was a pioneer of its kind serving an abundance of raw and cooked vegetable dishes, along with fresh vegetable juices. For 35 years people from almost every walk of life were counted among Martindale’s customers in the shop or in the restaurant.

Image Source: Earle Store, Thos. Martindale and Co./Outdoor Advertisement, Item ID: XXX0389/R.C. Maxwell Company Records/David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library/Duke University, 1920

Martindale's Natural Market in Phila 1920

Martindale's Teaches the Value of Good Eating Habits

At that same location, Thomas C. conducted lectures on the 2nd floor and drew a large crowd. A weekly radio broadcast came from the store discussing health issues and the value of good eating habits. The 3rd floor was used for manufacturing their own coffee substitute called “Figco”, made from dried figs. In 1953 the family business moved to 11th St. near Market St. under Bill Martindale and his brother Jim. Many current Martindale’s customers remember the juice bar even to this day.

Image: Martindale’s exterior 1945

Martindale's Natural Market Phila 1945

Martindale's Promotes Natural & Organic Foods

Ownership passed outside of the family in 1991 where it is still owned by Dale Reece and fellow principals. It is the only remaining Martindale’s store in existence today. Martindale's still promotes natural food consciousness, while serving the needs of those with special diets. Springfield has been our home since 1971 when the Olde Sproul Shopping Village was built.

Martindale's Natural Market store front