Weigel's stores entering Chattanooga area market

A Weigel's store at 12001Kingston Pike in Knoxville, pictured Oct. 17, 2007. (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL )
A Weigel's store at 12001Kingston Pike in Knoxville, pictured Oct. 17, 2007. (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL )

Weigel's, a convenience store company with 63 units in the Knoxville area, is making its first foray into another urban center with plans to open new locations in the Chattanooga region.

The company's initial Chattanooga area store will go up at Signal Mountain Road and U.S. Highway 27, where part of an office and retail center is being torn down at the proposed site, said Chief Executive Bill Weigel.

Weigel said he's "an old McCallie [School] boy." The new store is going up nearly across the road from the entrance of McCallie's rival, Baylor School. Plans are for the store, costing up to $2.5 million, to be ready next spring, he said.


* New company convenience store will be 5,300-square-feet in size, a little bigger than the typical unit, according to the company. It will have eight pumps and 16 fueling positions. The store will offer a variety to food-to-order items, said CEO Bill Weigel.

photo A Weigel's store at 12001Kingston Pike in Knoxville, pictured Oct. 17, 2007. (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL )

Weigel said company officials are initially looking at putting up four stores, but he'd like to have even more in Chattanooga and North Georgia.

"I'm green at this," he said. "I've always kept them close where I could get to them every day."

Weigel's entry into the Chattanooga market will be the biggest for that industry since Ohio-based Speedway, the nation's fourth-largest operator of company-owned convenience and gasoline stores, came to the area a couple of years ago.

Speedway's interest in the Chattanooga area followed the entry of heavyweights Pilot Flying J and RaceWay into the region.

Knoxville-based Pilot has about 550 interstate travel centers and plazas in 47 states. Atlanta-based RaceWay has more than 300 stores across 12 states in the Southeast.

Weigel said the Chattanooga area is geographically the closest to the company's existing stores.

"That's the natural way of expanding," he said, adding that a new Sweetwater, Tenn., store slated to open later this year will be the company's most southerly location to date.

Weigel's Signal Mountain Road store will face new competition from Murphy, which is building a new unit at a nearby Wal-Mart.

But the Weigel's CEO said there's competition everywhere.

"If we're not capable of competing, we wouldn't be there. We have to compete here. It's the same there," he said. What's different, Weigel said, is the company doesn't have a history in Chattanooga.

The Weigel family entered the dairy business in 1931 with four cows, selling raw milk for nine cents a gallon, according to its website. In 1936, the family bought a used pasteurizer and the dairy became one of the first in East Tennessee to distribute pasteurized milk.

Primarily to provide an outlet for returnable gallon milk jugs and other dairy products, the Weigels pioneered drive-through stores in East Tennessee. In 1958, the 500-square-foot "Store Number 1" opened on Sanderson Road in Knoxville. Walk-in stores didn't appear until 1964, when store No. 12 opened on Oak Ridge Highway, according to the company.

Weigel declined to immediately name the other locations for planned stores, but each unit is expected to employ 12 people.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said new jobs benefit everyone in Chattanooga.

"Every job gives somebody an income they can use to pay rent, eat at a family shop and buy a toy at a nearby store," he said. "That grows the entire economy."

Brad Griffey, who works at the Tire World auto repair shop at the Signal Mountain Road center, said he's hopeful the new convenience store will be a plus for business.

"It will increase traffic," he said. "That's a good thing. I'm personally looking forward to it."

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

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