COOK UNITED, INC. was at one time one of the country's leading home-service route supermarket and discount department store chains. Max Freeman and Hyman C. Broder started the firm as the Cook Coffee Co. in 1921 and incorporated it 4 years later. For its first 30 years, Cook grew by operating retail truck routes that sold coffee, tea, and other grocery and household items in 15 states. It became a publicly owned company in 1950 and expanded the following year by acquiring the 10-store Pick-n-Pay supermarket chain (see FIRST NATL. SUPERMARKETS, INC.). Cook's retail business was strengthened in 1959 when Pick-n-Pay purchased the 24-store Foodtown chain. Cook then moved its headquarters from the plant at 3615 Chester Ave. to Foodtown's offices at 16501 Rockside Rd., MAPLE HTS.
In the 1960s, Cook entered the discount department store business, acquiring 5 Uncle Bill's Discount Dept. Stores in 1961 and three other discount chains in the Midwest and East. The company added retail drugstores in 1967; acquired food-manufacturing firms to supply its supermarkets; and branched out into the wholesale hardware business. The firm became Cook United, Inc. in 1969 to reflect this diversified $360 million firm, with over 70 supermarkets, 90 discount department stores, and 40 home-service routes. When the company's multiple operations became unmanageable in the 1970s, Cook sold its ailing Pick-n-Pay chain in 1972, and the next year divested itself of its original home-service route business. By 1976 Cook was completely out of the retail food and drug business, but acquired the 47-store Rink's Discount Dept. Store chain from GRAY DRUGSTORES, INC. in 1981. Despite the consolidation of its operations, Cook lost money. Struggling to survive, it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1984, and again in 1987. Cook closed its last four Cleveland area discount department stores in the summer of 1987, and the bankruptcy was converted to Chapter 7 in Nov. of that year for liquidation of the corporation.