Balls Food Stores Celebrates 100-Year Anniversary

The fourth store at 55th Street and Leavenworth Road, opened in 1956, in Kansas City, KS.
Originally printed in the September 2023 issue of Produce Business.

From humble beginnings, Balls Food Stores has become a leader in the grocery business in the Kansas City metro area for 100 years. In 1923, Sidney and Mollie Ball purchased a building on the corner of 16th and Stewart streets in Kansas City. That decision would lead to generations of Ball family members dedicated to working and serving in the Kansas City community through their grocery business.

In 1934, the Balls opened their second store at 21st Street and Quindaro Boulevard. This store implemented a new concept in Kansas City, cash and carry. Cash and carry stores allowed customers to pay for and take their groceries home without creating a grocery tab.

By the late ’80s, the company had grown to 13 grocery stores, and all three of Sidney and Mollie’s grandchildren — their son Fred’s children — were involved in the business. David, Diane and Debbie would carry on the legacy of their grandparents.

Sidney and Mollie Ball opened their first store at 16th and Stewart streets in Kansas City, KS.

“Buy Fresh Buy Local” isn’t just a slogan, it’s a commitment the Ball family has been pursuing since 1923.

“When I was just a boy, I loved helping my grandfather, Sidney Ball, pick the fresh, home-grown tomatoes from his garden,” says David Ball, third generation. “Then, he would haul them, and me, down to the small neighborhood grocery store that he and my grandmother owned. I was told to write out a sign by hand — ‘Fresh, home-grown tomatoes, picked early this morning’ — and we would both get a kick out of watching the customers’ excitement to find such fresh, delicious produce.”

David recalls when a local grower brought tomatoes in from her family farm every week and would drop them off at each of the 15 locations. “Dad told her that if she brought all her tomatoes to just one store, he would be happy to use our trucks to take them to all the others,” says David.

These early beginnings led Balls Foods to be the originator of the local food movement in the Kansas City area. The company now works with more than 150 local growers to provide the largest selection of natural and sustainable products in the metro and is a proud supporter of the “Buy Fresh Buy Local” network.

“We all saw a jump in production, so Dad and I started brainstorming about ways to help all the growers and livestock breeders that we knew. We began to distribute their goods, give them seed to plant, and help create a demand for their products just by letting customers know their stories,” says David.

Always looking for innovative ways to serve its customers, Balls Food Stores has led the way with unique, forward-thinking shopping experiences. From in-store bakeries and delis in the 1980s to today’s online ordering and pickup for busy customers, there is always something new on the horizon at many locations. Balls Foods’ ongoing commitment to provide fresh foods, partnering with local suppliers, and outstanding customer service has enabled the company to not only grow but thrive.

As times change, Balls Foods is constantly looking to the future in grocery trends, best-in-class facilities, store technology and supply chain sustainability.

Today, David leads a company of more than 2,500 dedicated teammates committed to the spirit of serving fresh, local food, for fair prices with great service at 25 supermarkets in the Kansas City area. Under the banners of Hen House Market, Price Chopper, Sun Fresh and Payless Discount Foods, the Ball legacy lives on.