The big sensation of 1934 was the first Big Bear store, which opened in a former roller rink on Lane Avenue near the Ohio State University campus in Columbus. It was billed as the Midwest's first self-service supermarket.

The big sensation of 1934 was the first Big Bear store, which opened in a former roller rink on Lane Avenue near the Ohio State University campus in Columbus.

It was billed as the Midwest's first self-service supermarket, and the company headquarters and distribution facilities were established at 770 W. Goodale Blvd.

In 1987, 50 years after opening, the chain had 57 other Big Bear stores in addition to the original. Customers were greeted by colorful displays of products and were introduced to the new concept of self-service, which allowed customers -- who formally gave orders to clerks -- to personally walk the aisles of merchandise and select their choice from a variety of products.

Big Bear was the first supermarket in the country to use cashier-operated motorized conveyor belts and shopping carts. The company expanded over the next years, introducing the warehouse concept that was developed with the purchase of Harts Stores, which operated in the basement of two Big Bear stores.

The Big Bear Credit Union was established in June 1957 for employees and was located at the Goodale Blvd. headquarters. In the late 1980s, due to competition from Cub Foods and Meijer moving into the marketing area, the Big Bear chain began its inevitable decline.

Big Bear became a division of Penn Traffic Co. and eventually ended its existence in 2004. Some Big Bear stores were reopened as Giant Eagle or Kroger. Many stores remain closed in Ohio and West Virginia as a remnant of a once-innovative business.