Jay C celebrates 160 years of serving the community

As shoppers prepared for their ordinary shopping trip to Jay C Food Store at 1541 E. Tipton St. in Seymour on Aug. 11, they were greeted with more than just the weekly deals.

Employees and partners with Jay C greeted customers with a smile, free baked goods and fellowship as the company celebrated 160 years of serving the community.

With that many years in the bag, Jay C also unveiled something new — a history wall dedicated to their long-standing commitment and impact in the communities of southern Indiana.

“We really wanted to capture the history of the company to show where we got our start and where we are now,” store manager Bethany Daily said.

The man who started it all, John C. Groub, was an immigrant from Switzerland before coming to the United States. After moving around quite a bit, Groub left Louisville, Kentucky, and went to Rockford, where he obtained work in a store owned by Jacob Peter. It was in 1863 when he opened his first grocery store on South Chestnut Street in Seymour. It soon became a thriving enterprise.

With the business growing exponentially, the Groub family started to shift from retail to wholesaling groceries in 1871. By 1927, the family business continued to prosper and grow, serving much of southern Indiana.

In that same year, the company adopted the name Jay C for retail outlets as they planned to return back to their roots and established the first store under the iconic name in Scottsburg.

With Jay C stores expanding across southern Indiana, the Groub family constructed its first warehouse in 1938, which was built in downtown Seymour. By the 1940s, the family company expanded its stores to 44 locations.

Due to a major event in 1951, however, the warehouse and another building owned by the family company were completely destroyed by one of the worst fires in Seymour’s history, costing an estimated $500,000 in damages.

It wasn’t long, though, before the company built one of the most modern food warehouses in the Midwest in 1964. During that time, the warehouse occupied 86,000 square feet at Freeman Field on the city’s southwest side. At the time, the warehouse was known as Insofar but it later become Ruler Foods. The new facility became the first food warehouse in the United States that was designed with a 25-foot unobstructed stacking area.

By 1997, Jay C had become the largest retail employer in Indiana and founded the discount grocery chain Ruler Foods.

In 1999, the Kroger Family of Companies purchased the John C. Groub Co. and continued Jay C store operations under Jay C name. The president of the John C. Groub Co. at the time, Jim McCoy, spearheaded the merge with Kroger. He died in August 2020.

“We give a lot of credit to the Kroger Family of Companies,” Daily said. “McCoy loved what Kroger stood for as a company, and Kroger liked us for what we bring to the table, which is great customer service.”

Now 160 years later, Jay C serves 22 retail stores in southern Indiana including two in Seymour and one in Brownstown.

Daily got her start with Jay C in 2001 as a grocery bagger at the west side location. The following year, she met the love of her life when they were both bagging groceries together. They have been married for 21 years now.

“We just have a lot of great memories here,” she said. “Whenever current and former store leaders come together, it’s like a family reunion.”

District Manager Ashley Johnson said she is proud to be part of a company that has helped the community in times of need.

“We try to come together and be there for our customers, especially when disaster arises,” she said. “We need them just as much as they need us.”

As customers shopped throughout the day Aug. 11, they had the opportunity to sample local products, enjoy special deals and snap a picture with the famous Jay C mascot, Baxter.

“It has been an honor to be part of the southern Indiana community for 160 years,” Johnson said. “We’re thrilled to celebrate with our customers and local vendors to spotlight the incredible communities and entrepreneurs. We know a milestone such as this is reached not only by our associates but our loyal customers who continue to shop with us. We appreciate their business.”

The celebration concluded with a ribbon cutting of the history wall with the Jackson County Chamber.

“I just want to thank the community and our wonderful customers for all the love and support throughout the years,” Daily said. “They really impact what we do here.”