In 1903, Ashley W. Cullum had a small retail grocery store in downtown Dallas, and deliveries were made by horse and wagon. Then in 1919, Ashley and son Marvin organized the A. W. Cullum Wholesale Grocery Company, and it prospered through the “Great Depression” and World War II. In the late 1940s Ashley’s younger sons, Robert and Charles, took over the management during the “Supermarket Revolution,” and purchased a small struggling chain of Dallas stores, which they named “Tom Thumb.” Thus they plunged into the fray with giants such as A & P, and Tom Thumb became a giant itself.
In the 1960s Jack Evans joined the Cullums, and the company went public with its stock to finance a major expansion. The Cullum Companies acquired food and drug chains, a meat packing plant, and an advertising company. These were then in Austin, Omaha and California.
In the 1970s a huge combination of food and pharmacy stores replaced the supermarkets, and Tom Thumb was a leader in the developments in Texas. Charles Cullum became CEO in 1976, and Robert Cullum died in 1981. Jack Evans became Mayor of Dallas, then returned to become the Company CEO, with Charles Cullum, Chairman of the Executive Committee.
At the 50th Anniversary in 1988, a controlling interest was sold to Morgan-Stanley, New York Investment Bankers. In 1993 Randolph Food Markets of Houston bought the Cullum Companies. Then in 1999 Randolph sold its interests to Safeway Stores, and Tom Thumb now operates as a division of Safeway. Current directories list 35 of its stores in the Dallas area.
A. W. Cullum raised eight children and died in 1950. He was Sunday School Superintendent at Oak Lawn Methodist Church 1916-42. This church was founded in 1874 by his father, Rev. M. H. Cullum of Dallas. Robert B. Cullum was president of the State Fair of Texas, and Charles G. Cullum a Dallas City Councilman. Their brother, Jim Cullum, founded the Happy Jazz Band of San Antonio, now operated by his son, Jim Cullum, Jr., and known nationwide. A. W. Cullum’s daughter, Mary C. Nash, operated a clothing business in Dallas, and daughter Eloise Cullum operates a business at Rockwall, Texas. Both Charles and Eloise remain active in 2001.
By Eloise Cullum for Proud Heritage, Volume III by Dallas County Pioneer Association. Published in 2002. Photo courtesy Talking_Bird and was for sale on eBay. Store location is thought to have been Jefferson Blvd. in Oak Cliff.