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Big Bear Stores

Big Bear grocery stores started in Columbus. The company’s first location on West Lane Avenue was the first self-service grocery store in the Midwest.

For many in Columbus, Big Bear was more than a place to pick up milk and bread—it was an experience. Stores featured big displays of canned goods and trading stamps to redeem for household items, toys and more. Big Bear operated locations in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana.

When the company launched a new store, the grand opening typically featured a live bear and, on some occasions, celebrities like Columbus-native Jack Nicklaus and broadcaster Hugh Downs.

VIDEO: Take a look at the History of Big Bear segment and Big Bear Farms.

All Big Bear stores closed abruptly in 2004 after parent company Penn Traffic filed for bankruptcy.

Addresses for all of the Big Bear store locations are not available; however, we have mapped out some of the stores. Below the map, take a look at the grand opening celebrations for several Big Bear stores around Central Ohio. The photos are from the Ohio History Connection‘s collection.

Nick Houser and Emily Thompson

Big Bear Grand Openings

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