Company » JMD History


A Message from the Board of Jerónimo Martins




Jerónimo Martins, a young man from Galicia, Spain, arriving in Lisbon in search of a better life, opens his modest store in Chiado, where the scars of the 1755 earthquake can still be seen.

In those days, Jerónimo Martins could not have imagined that his humble store would live to be more than two centuries old, and be transformed into the Group that it is today.

In his little shop he sells a bit of everything: sausages filled with paprika, sacks of wheat and maize, jugs of wine, brooms, etc…


After five prosperous years, Jerónimo Martins becomes the main supplier of most of the accredited embassies in Lisbon and ships calling at river Tagus.

Originally situated in what is now Rua Ivens, the store moves to a building in Rua Garrett, where it remained until the fire of 1985 that destroyed most of the traditional image of Chiado.

Political events come and go, but the image of the store seems unchangeable. The French arrive; the Royal Family leaves to Brazil; the liberals come to power, and during all this time the cream of Lisbon's society keeps obtaining its supplies, often on credit, from Jerónimo Martins.

The Royal Family does not deprive itself from the store's products, and Dom Fernando, widower of Dona Maria II and Regent during the minority of Pedro V, because "it is by fair means and it pleases him", grants Jerónimo Martins a license as supplier of the Royal Household. The already old Jerónimo Martins does not live long enough to receive this honor, which is granted to his son Domingos.


An advertisement in “Jornal do Comércio” invites to the purchase of "genuine Gruyère, London and Parmesan cheeses, little barrels of superior olives from Marseilles, salamis from Lyon and Italy, cans of sardines from Nantes, anchovies from Marseilles, raisins from Malaga, bottles of wine from Champagne, gin from Holland, cognac from France"… and the list carried on with all sorts of foreign specialties that can be thought of.

A new product was launched to enrich the assortment of the store: the olive oil produced at Vale de Lobos by Mr. Alexandre Herculano. In the contract, signed by the historian in his minute and steady handwriting, Herculano protects his "fine olive oil", asserting that "any samples that bear my name, whether alone or associated with another, are completely false".


 Despite the obvious success, Jerónimo Martins’s grandsons went through a phase of dramatic crisis. One of the two half-brothers is addicted to gambling, night life and Fado, and becomes involved in ruinous parallel businesses. It is a situation of real rupture.

João António Martins decides to take over and fight to save his store. For this reason he sells all his possessions: house, horses, silver and even furniture. He manages to arrange a moratorium and an agreement with his creditors. His many debtors, in which were included most of the aristocratic surnames of Lisbon, no exception made to the King and the Prime Minister.


João António Martins regains his honor and pays off all the debts. The window again displays its customary appetizing delicacies. He is the last of the Martins to run the store in Chiado. Before dying, and since he had no successors,  he passes the store on to the most qualified employees, and leaves his entire estate, including his share of the firm, to an old friend, the lawyer Júlio César Pereira de Melo, who maintains the name of the store as Jerónimo Martins.

This situation continues over the following years. The older partners leave and are replaced by experienced employees. Jerónimo Martins becomes an institution and a point of reference in Chiado and in Lisbon.


Although apparently flourishing, the company cannot withstand the real economic revolution caused by the First World War and, for the second time in its now long history, it faces a situation of near bankruptcy.


The solution was to come from Northern Portugal, from men who had started with nothing and worked their way up. The Grandes Armazéns Reunidos, a limited company founded in Oporto in 1920, comes to the aid of Jerónimo Martins. They set up the company called Estabelecimentos Jerónimo Martins & Filho. There are several partners, but it soon becomes obvious that only two of them are at the helm of the company: Francisco Manuel dos Santos and Elysio Pereira do Vale.

Therefore it is in the 20th century that, by buying the store in Chiado, the family of the present Chairman of the Group - the Soares dos Santos family from Northern Portugal - joins forces with Jerónimo Martins. This acquisition brought about not only the link between Jerónimo Martins and the Grandes Armazéns Reunidos but also the growth of the Group, which decided to restructure and expand its chain of retail stores.

The situation wasn't easy at all, and Francisco Manuel dos Santos finds himself forced to request a bank loan of five thousand escudos. As a guarantee, he offers "his work and his honesty".


Jerónimo Martins is the first company to pay a Christmas bonus to its workers and to install a canteen in its premises in Chiado.



The recovery was quick, and soon Jerónimo Martins resumed its prestigious position in Chiado. War times are periods when all products including margarine, which had become an essential item, run short.

Therefore the Company decided to extend its operations to the manufacturing of margarine and edible oils, for which purpose FIMA (Fábrica Imperial de Margarina, Lda) was created in Sacavém.


Unlike many other large Portuguese companies, Jerónimo Martins operations were not affected by the Revolution. The stability of the company seems to have been guaranteed by its almost total family control, which allowed for the maintenance of previously set objectives and guidelines.


Along with other major decisions, Jerónimo Martins Distribuição, a direct descendant of the old retail store in the Chiado, is set up. It followed the traditional operations of the Company, representing and introduced in the portuguese market well-known brands such as Guloso, Heinz, Kellogg’s, Canderel and Bahlsen.