Chatham was started in 1947 by Peter Wiesberg. His first store (then known as "Chatham Village") was on Kelly Rd. in Harper Woods. Chatham was often compared to Kroger in size and selection. Typical of many grocery stores of its time, Chatham was unable to keep up with big-box grocery competitors, including Michigan-based Meijer. In 1980, Chatham tried the "warehouse outlet" idea that would come to dominate the industry. A sale of the chain was attempted in 1984 but fell through. Kroger subsequently purchased former Chatham locations after the chain went out of business.
In 1986, Chatham was then owned by Nu-Trax, Inc., headed by Wendell Smith. In March 1986, the company was purchased by Alex Dandy, a businessman who owned Hamady Brothers food chain in Flint, Michigan. Dandy illegally diverted assets of the company to his personal benefit, and Chatham was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1987. Dandy was convicted in 1991, of tax offenses, mail fraud, bankruptcy fraud, and obstruction of justice. He died in 2003.