Remembering Keedoozle, America's First Fully Automated Grocery Store


In an effort to turn grocery shopping into an arcade game, in 1937, Clarence Saunders developed the concept for a fully automated grocery store in Memphis. The new store was called Keedoozle, as in "key does all," because each customer received a key to use while shopping. The items (mostly dry and canned goods) were behind glass displays, and shoppers put in their key and selected the quantity they wanted. The key was then brought to the front, where the food was delivered via conveyor belt and the bill was added up.

The bright, blinking lights, low prices, and novelty brought in droves of customers—but unfortunately, this led to Keedoozle's demise. The technology at the time wasn't advanced enough to handle heavy traffic. The store had to be shut down repeatedly when wires were crossed and shoppers received the wrong food. The conveyor belts also weren't fast enough for the concept to seem worth it. After three store openings, Keedoozle shut its doors for the last time in 1949.

LIFE gives us a peak at what this futuristic supermarket looked like: 

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Here's the inside of the store. You can see all the food in the glass cases and a small place underneath for the customers' keys.

Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Men working in the back room restocked the food by putting cans into various chutes. When the items were purchased, they dropped onto the conveyor belt and were brought to the shopper.

Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

After bringing her key to the front, the customer could watch her bill print out, then review the receipt before paying.

Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

A behind the scenes look at one of the employees working the conveyor belt.

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