NASH FINCH CO. was founded in 1885 as a small candy and tobacco store in Devils Lake, N.D., by Fred Nash, who was soon joined by two bothers, Edgar and Willis, but the firm quickly branched into the wholesaling business.
According to information on the company's website, the founders in the early years began buying fruit from the region's numerous farms in large quantities to sell to other retailers, and within a few years shifted their business completely to wholesaling.
In 1891, the Nash brothers hired Harry B. Finch, a 14-year-old who was the first non-family member to join the company and who would later lend his name to it. Three generations of family would continue to influence the company for more than a century.
In the early 1900s, the company began buying up what were called “fruit houses,” or small distributors, to add to its capacity. Between 1904 and 1912, more than 20 such facilities were acquired or opened by the company.
In 1904 the company launched the Our Family private-label line of grocery products, which it continues to offer to its indepndent wholesale customers today. It also had a private-label coffee business, called No-Vary at first and later changed to Nash's Coffee before it was sold in the 1950s.
In 1915, the company moved some of its operations to Minneapolis, and three years later, with 31 fruit houses in its stable of distribution facilities, the main offices moved there as well.
The company incorporated as Nash Finch Co. in 1921. At that time it also operated a separate Canadian company, which was sold in the 1930s.
Nash Finch entered the retailing business again in 1954, with the purchase 17 supermarkets in Nebraska.
During the 1960s, Nash Finch opened a Family Thrift Center in Rapid City, S.D., that was a pioneer in the combining of general merchandise and groceries under one roof.
In 1983, the company began trading shares on the Nasdaq stock exchange, just two years after crossing the $1 billion annual-sales threshold.
In 1985, Nash Finch acquired M.H. Mclean Wholesale Grocery Co. in Lumberton, N.C., marking the company's expansion into the Southeast. Several acquisitions of additional wholesalers followed during the next 20 years.
Total the company operates 15 wholesale distribution centers, six military distribution facilities serving commissaries and 54 retail stores, generating just over $5.2 billion in total annual revenues.