Cowtown Yoostabes, Self-Serve Edition: Jack Long Helped Those Who Helped Themselves

Do you know what these commercial buildings yoostabe?

4624 Camp Bowie Boulevard (1927).

1513 Northwest 25th Street (1928).

4081 East Lancaster Avenue (1930).

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue/526 South Henderson Street (1929).

3120 East Rosedale Avenue (circa 1925).

2673 East Vickery Boulevard (1927). (Update: This building has been demolished.)

Answer: These buildings yoostabe Helpy-Selfy grocery stores.

Back in the 1920s shoppers were still becoming accustomed to being able to serve themselves in grocery stores, a practice begun by Piggly Wiggly in 1916. In fact, shoppers were in store for many food innovations in the next few years: sliced bread in 1928, milk sold in plastic-coated paper cartons in 1932, beer sold in cans in 1935.

grocery helpy dmn 1929 2 Jack Long of Fort Worth capitalized on the serve-yourself innovation in grocery shopping in 1921 with his first Helpy-Selfy store, which opened in Dallas. The Helpy-Selfy chain really took off in the late 1920s, as the construction dates of the buildings above show. The chain’s headquarters was in Fort Worth, but by franchising, the chain spread to several other Texas towns.

helpy 1929By 1929 Texas had thirty-three stores, fifteen of them in Fort Worth.

1930 helpy

This ad is from 1930.

By 1931 Helpy-Selfy store no. 1 was at 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue/526 South Henderson Street in the rounded building that had opened in 1929 as Alexander-Bale South Side Store.

In fact, by 1932 Alexander-Bale had taken over the Helpy-Selfy stores.


The “seventeen clean stores” of the Helpy-Selfy chain in the mid-1930s were proud of the endorsement of “Miss Decker.” Viola Decker, General Electric home economist, conducted the annual Star-Telegram Cooking School in the mid-1930s.

helpy 1925Helpy-Selfy stores competed with Piggly Wiggly stores for shoppers’ dollars. The two chains even competed in sports.

But Piggly Wiggly won not only that baseball game but also the Piggly Wiggly–Helpy-Selfy business competition, possibly because it had a name that was slightly sillier.

Cowtown Yoostabes, Corner Edition: Neighborhood Grocery Stores

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