In 1962, Yorktowne Wholesale Grocery Co., Inc. (founded in 1929) and the Lancaster Wholesale Grocery Co. (incorporated in 1919) combined to form Associated Wholesalers, Inc. (AWI). At this time member retailers of Associated Wholesalers' Inc. traded as AG stores and therefore Associated Wholesaler's, Inc. was commonly referred to as AG. Not until 1981, when our member retailers ceased trading as AG stores, did we adopt the AWI acronym. The founder of Yorktowne Wholesale Grocery Co., Mr. Goldberg, became the first general manger of AWI. The primary purpose of the organization was broadly defined as a wholesale food distributor, specifically to purchase merchandise in large quantities and break those quantities down into smaller lots that could be sold to individual retailers. Keep in mind, at this time almost all of the retailers were small corner grocers or "Mom and Pop" operators.
From the time of its incorporation, AWI, like its predecessors, has done business with its shareholders or members on a cooperative basis. In 1970 AWI formed a Rack Service Division for the purpose of distributing health care and general merchandise products. This division is now the General Merchandise Division located in York, PA. In 1972 AWI and UAG (United Associated Grocers, Inc.) formed the corporation "Polar Foods" (Robesonia) for the purpose of distributing frozen food products. In 1973 AWI, UAG, Lehigh Wholesale Grocers and Affiliated Food, Inc. (all cooperative food distributors) formed Co-op Insurance Agency, Inc. (Myerstown) for the purpose of providing insurance coverage to member retailers. In 1976 the board of directors began a process which would narrow the definition of the purpose of the company. The board voted to eliminate the distribution of food products to food service accounts. This focused the AWI customer base to retail food establishments, supermarkets or convenience stores that were stockholders of the company.
In 1981 the company voted to alter the By-laws and Articles of the corporation and re-capitalize the cooperative resulting in a new company’s policies and business plan. The new business strategy focused on providing both distribution and retail services that would assist in the development (growth and profitability) of our retail stores. In 1983 Nell's Inc., a corporation formed for the purpose of owning and operating retail establishments, was organized as a wholly owned subsidiary. The first store operated by this division was located in East Berlin, which had been formerly owned and operated by Harry and Fred Nell. UAG and AWI merged in 1984, which made Polar Foods a wholly owned subsidiary of AWI. All food operations were consolidated in Robesonia in 1986 along with the corporate headquarters. Non-food operations were relocated to AWI's original food distribution facilities in York. In 1991, AWI acquired the Park Jensen Company located in Reading. This acquisition led AWI to tailor programs to meet the specific needs of two segments of the retail food industry, convenience stores and supermarkets. In 1992, AWI merged with AFD (Affiliated Food Distributors, Inc.) located in Scranton. Since the merger, all AFD operations have been consolidated at the Robesonia and York facilities.
On June the 15, 2006, Associated Wholesalers, Inc. acquired White Rose, which trades as White Rose Foods. White Rose is one of the larger independent wholesale food distributors in the New York metropolitan area, which is one of the larger retail food markets in the United States. White Rose services supermarkets, both independent retailers (including members of voluntary cooperatives) and chains, principally in the five boroughs of New York City, Long Island, New Jersey and the greater Philadelphia area. White Rose does not operate on a cooperative basis.
In a recent survey, conducted by the Cooperative Bank, of the nations largest cooperatives, AWI was ranked 29th.