Several grocery stores in North Hamilton County are aiming to improve customers' shopping experiences through interior renovations and new products.
Greenlife Grocery is currently in the process of turning over a new leaf, with the first phase of moving the produce section from the back to the front of the the store now under way.
"We're changing the layout to make it more user-friendly," said Greenlife Marketing Director Susan Baker.
All improvements are being made internally and the store's square footage will remain the same, she said.
One change customers are already commenting on is the new freestanding salad bar located across from the bakery.
"Customers have given us really good feedback on that," said Baker.
Triple the size of Greenlife's old salad bar, it features at least 65 options daily including more fresh-cut vegetables and prepared salads such as a strawberry spinach salad, Mediterranean tuna salad and Sonoma chicken salad. The bar also has an expanded selection of nutritious picks from Whole Foods' "Health Starts Here" line, as well as more protein and vegetarian options.
Since the store will stay open as renovations are made, the location of the deli case has been switched to the salad bar's old home to make room for construction. The present customer service area will become the new floral department, and the deli will be relocated to the back of the store where the produce is now, Baker said.
The renovation project includes several phases which the company has yet to release, but all should be complete around Christmas 2012, according to her.
"It's a slow process, because we're not going to close," she said. "There are more exciting changes to come for sure."
Greenlife, a Whole Foods subsidiary, is the only store in the South the parent company is currently improving, though renovations were recently completed at the Durham, N.C., store.
"The South region of Whole Foods is growing tremendously," said Baker, adding that the company plans to open a new store in Charlotte, N.C., at the end of August and another in Columbia, S.C., in October.
Bi-Lo also recently revamped the interior of its Rivermont and Signal Mountain Road locations.
"We were basically past due for renovations," said Max Bates, store director at the Signal Mountain Road location, which was last upgraded 12 years ago. "[Bi-Lo] is really coming into the market and investing."
Bates said cases have been replaced in the store's deli, produce and meat departments. The frozen food case has been expanded by 60 feet, and 12 feet have been added to the frozen meat section.
"We wanted to give a better selection and variety for our customers," he said.
The dairy section was also expanded by 20 feet, and doors to the cases were replaced for greater energy efficiency, said Bates. The floral department has been moved and expanded to provide a wider selection, and the store's meat and seafood sections now have new service cases boasting layouts better for both efficiency in production as well as serving customers, he said.
Inside the cases customers will find new featured sections, such as the "Meal To-Go" case, where shoppers can find everything necessary for a full meal including meat, vegetables, salad and cut fruit. Bates said the items featured in the case change weekly, but it currently includes beef and chicken kabobs, salad, corn, asparagus and squash.
More gluten-free and organic options will also line the shelves, he said.
Bi-Lo's new "Wall of Value" draws attention to the store's sale items, which are now gathered together for customer convenience. Shoppers can stretch out on new cozy chairs in the cafe to use the free Wi-Fi now available throughout the store, and Bi-Lo will soon change its video kiosk from Blockbuster to Redbox, said Bates.
He said 20-25 new employees have been hired to work on the store's front end as well as the deli, and Baker said Greenlife is always accepting applications.