Cater Brothers Supermarkets was a natural progression for a family of butchers and greengrocers. Henry Charles Cater (1818-1868) was a pork merchant and latterly a pork Butcher in the East End of London. Three of his four sons went on to become a cheesemonger, a grocer and a provisions merchant.
Henry John Cater, one of Henry Charles's sons, is shown in the 1881 census as being a grocer in Bridge Street, Mile End. It was his five sons who took the business over after his death in 1919, with his son Erastus being appointed chairman of the board. By the start of the Second World War the business had around 30 stores.
In 1956, Leslie Erastus, son of Erastus, had taken over the running of the business and was keen to move the company into the new self-service supermarket business. The first supermarket was opened in Bromley in 1958, with branches being added across the South East at a rate of around one a year. The new chain had stores as far away as Reading and Colchester, all supplied by a depot in Dagenham.
In 1972, Leslie Erastus was killed when a plane, piloted by rival supermarket owner F J Wallis of Wallis Supermarkets, crashed in the French Alps. After his death, the Cater family decided to accept an offer of £7 million for the business from Debenhams, in 1973.
Debenhams integrated the business with their 40 food halls, which were modernised and branded as Cater Food Halls and opened a further two new Cater supermarkets. However the business struggled in the competitive 1970s market, and in 1979, Debenhams sold the business to Allied Suppliers for £9.5 million. Allied Suppliers integrated the new stores into their Presto chain and the Cater Brothers brand was no more. The Cater name, however, lives on Chelmsford, with an office block that was built above the store still carrying the Cater House name.
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