The household name Four Square emerged in the 1920s out of the Foodstuffs grocery buying co-operative. Foodstuffs' founder, Mr J Heaton Barker, became concerned at the activities of the grocery chain stores of the day that were making life very difficult for independent grocers in Auckland.
On 6th July 1922, Heaton Barker called together members of the Auckland Master Grocers' Association to discuss plans for the formation of a co-operative buying group of independent grocers.
On 1st April 1925, this buying group registered a company, Foodstuffs Ltd (later Foodstuffs (Auckland) Ltd), the first of three regional co-operatives based in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, which now form the Foodstuffs group of co-operatives.
The Four Square Name
The name Four Square emerged when Mr Barker, while talking on the telephone to one of the buying group members on 4th July 1924, drew a square around the 4 of the date on his calendar. He immediately realised he had a suitable name for the buying group, stating that "they would stand 'Four Square' to all the winds that blew".
By the end of 1924, products were appearing under the Four Square name, and by 1929, discussions were underway on the use of a common branding on stores. Early versions of the Four Square sign were produced in the form of red and gold hand painted glass panels for display in members' stores.
In February 1948, New Zealand's first self-service grocery store was opened in Onehunga by Phil Barker (the son of the founder of the group) and Ray McGregor. This soon became the norm for grocery retailing.
Four Square Man
During the 1950s the Foodstuffs advertising department designed the famous Four Square man who initially appeared only in newspaper advertising and posters, but was developed to become part of the Four Square identity, appearing in every Four Square store and eventually becoming a nationally recognised icon in New Zealand, remaining famous to this day. Find out more about "Cheeky Charlie" here.
Four Square stores continue to serve local communities and towns throughout New Zealand.
Four Square Birthdays
For over 60 years, Four Square has welcomed babies born on July 4. The gifts have varied over the years, with a mother in 1961 given a new washing machine (a very generous gift in an era of cloth nappies!) while a 1972 letter records the gift of "A Max Factor Creme Puff Compact for you and a box of Jacob van Hartog Cigars for the proud father"!
Mr Four Square Car
The Mr Four Square car is a 1924 Model T Ford - created in the same year that Four Square started providing the essentials in New Zealand.
With a 20 horsepower engine and a transmission with 2 forward and 1 reverse gear and, of course, a fantastic Four Square paint-job, the car has been lovingly rebuilt and restored by Bob Herron, Mosgiel.
View more photos and find out more about the car here.