History

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

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

See history photos much larger in person at the store!

Why is Martindale’s Celebrating 150 Years?

1869

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

sportroyal
1907

Early Location in Philadelphia

Thos. Martindale & Co building is on the left-hand side of the photograph. The store was located at various locations in Philly throughout the years. However, this 1907 photograph clearly shows Martindale's on the left. In the early 1900s, bread was selling for $.05 a loaf.


Image: View of Market Street, east from 10th, Philadelphia, 1907, (silver gelatin print) by American Photographer, (20th century); Free Library of Philadelphia

Thos. Martindale & Co. in 1907
1909

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
1920

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
1945

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
1991

Martindale's Promotes Natural & Organic Foods

Ownership passed outside of the family in 1991 where it is still owned by Dale Reece and new co-owners, too. 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 first built, as we were the first store in the strip.

Martindale's Natural Market store front

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