A half-century after he founded the supermarket chain that still bears his name, local grocery giant Don Fry, 92, has died.
Fry, a native of Oklahoma opened a meat market in 1937 in Oakland, Calif., was drafted in 1942, served in World War II and landed in Phoenix as an Army recruiter in 1946. He met his wife, Mollie, during his Valley stopover.
After leaving the military, Fry went back into the meat business in 1949. With his brother Charles, he expanded his meat market into a fullline grocery operation.
The brothers opened the first Fry’s Food Store in 1955 in California.
The family moved to Arizona in 1958 and opened the first Arizona Fry’s in 1960.
Besides growing the family business, Fry helped support the local industry, serving on the Retail Grocers Association of Arizona board for 16 years, some of those years as its president.
In 1972, the family had more than 20 stores when they merged the growing grocery empire with Dillon Cos.
Fry served on Dillon’s board until 1982, when he started a real estate investment company with his children. He was inducted into the Arizona Grocers Hall of Fame in 1989.
The grocery chain he founded eventually became part of the massive Kroger Co., the largest supermarket company in the country.
Fry’s retained its local name, swallowing up several other local brands — Smith’s Food & Drugs and Smitty’s Marketplace.
Following parent Kroger’s top place nationwide, Fry’s has grown into Arizona’s largest supermarket operation, with 113 stores ringing up nearly 25 percent of the state’s grocery sales.
Fry is survived by his wife, Mollie, son Jeff, daughter Jennifer Touton, brother Charles, sister Laverne Coleman, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.