The Giant Food chain was founded in 1935 by N.M. Cohen and Samuel Lehrman in Washington, D.C. Cohen had owned several kosher butcher shops in Lancaster, PA and Lehrman had operated a local cannery, the Harrisburg Grocery Company. Cohen decided that Washington D.C. was an ideal location for a supermarket—the newest retail phenomenon. He proposed a partnership to Lehrman, under which Lehrman would put up starting capital of $5,000 and Cohen would provide day-to-day management. The first Giant Food Shopping Center opened on February 5, 1936 in an old warehouse on Georgia Avenue offering the lowest food prices in town. The food retailing pattern of the area was shattered. Within a year food prices in DC dropped 35%. The supermarket was thriving.
Throughout the next half-century of Giant’s existence the company dedicated itself to quality, customer service and the community. Expanding to hundreds of branches in the area, Giant was bringing in enormous revenue. The company began hiring many underprivileged youth and became a staple of the inner-city community. This paid off in a big way for Giant after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and riots swept Washington, D. C. While Safeways were burned and looted, customers and youths joined hands around the Giant stores for three days and three nights and chased the rioters away. All Giant's stores came through the riots intact.
In 1998 Giant Food Inc. was purchased by Royal Ahold based in the Netherlands from the founding Cohen family. Most of Giant's headquarters staff was dismissed and the company became, in effect, a part of Stop & Shop, an Ahold subsidiary. To all intents and purposes, the Giant Food of old ceased to exist.