Abner A. Wolf – Park #48


Abner A. Wolf (b.1892) came from humble beginnings.  At the age of 12, he began sweeping the floor in his father Joseph’s store, squeezing his homework into his free moments at work.  In 1912, he paid $50 for a cart and a horse.  He took his remaining $350 savings and purchased merchandise to start his own small grocery on Joseph Campau in Hamtramck.  He was twenty.  Within three years, he had enough money and customers to move to a bigger space across the street.  And so it began…

Wolf used innovative techniques to bring in his 1920’s customers, keep his overhead down and prices low.  He pioneered self-service in his stores and the use of adding machines to tally orders.  Eventually, he opened 13 “Rock Bottom Stores” – a discount grocery whose name referenced a customer’s savings.  From this he grew a cash and carry wholesale business selling unbroken cases of dry goods to small dealers.  In 1947, Wolf was grossing $18,000,000 yearly.  He began offering classes in efficiency to his metropolitan distributors so they too could succeed.


By the 1950’s, Abner A. Wolf Inc. was grossing $100,000,000.  Wolf morphed into ‘Mr. Big’.  He was the world’s largest wholesale dry grocer and the world’s largest distributor of brand name foods.  With all of the success, Abner always remembered the customer and the independent Detroit grocer.  He helped many immigrants start their own successful grocery businesses.

Wolf courtsey of BC
Mr. Big. Courtesy of the DPL Burton Collection.

Albert Cobo, a high school friend and eventual Mayor of Detroit told the newspapers, “Abner recognized the need of the independent merchants.  He showed them that through organization they could buy in quantity and distribute at a price that would enable them to compete with the biggest chain.”

Abner’s success peaked in 1955 when he merged his business with three others to form Wrigley Supermarkets – a $350 million dollar score.  He retired in the late 1960’s and moved to Florida.  He left this lifetime in September 1974.

Wolf himself once declared, “…only in America can a man rise from humble beginnings to make a place for himself at the top.”


Abner Wolf before a clean-up
Wolf Playground after a clean sweep.   

The Abner Wolf playground is located on an out-of-the way dead end street backing to commercial warehouses and a railroad line.  It was once known as the Decatur – Van Buren Play Lot.  It’s worth a drive-by, as the sycamores lining Carlin Street are amazing.

The playground is south of Joy Road and at the dead end of Van Buren Street.. the dead end in the center of the map ..hit the plus button on the right and it will appear.  

Copyright 2017, Andrea Gallucci.