KIMBALL, Tenn. — Food City opened its first store in Marion County on Wednesday to throngs of shoppers who came for grand opening specials and to check out the new $15 million grocery outlet.
"I'm glad there's more competition now, and this seems to be a great addition for our area," Sherry Sambles, a shopper from nearby Richard City, said Wednesday morning as she loaded up her shopping cart with a variety of meats on sale.
The new 49,000-square-foot supermarket includes a Starbucks cafe, a drive-through pharmacy, a Gas N Go station and an in-store bakery and deli with a hot food bar and a café seating area. A full-service meat and seafood department with in-house butchers offers pre-marinated, seasoned oven-ready products, and the store's floral boutique is staffed with a designer seven days per week, offering fresh-cut floral arrangements, bouquets and gift items.
Food City opens grocery store in Kimball
Food City President Steve Smith said the Kimball grocery store is one of nine new supermarkets Food City is adding this year across its five-state footprint. The Kimball store at 514 Main St. opened Wednesday, just two weeks after Food City opened one of its first stores in Alabama 95 miles south of Kimball in Gadsden.
"This is a growing and attractive area in the Chattanooga-area market we didn't serve, and we felt like the people in Marion County needed a good supermarket," Smith said at the store opening, which included a fireworks display Tuesday night. "Based on all the interest we're seeing, I think a lot of people were anxious to see this store get open."
When Smith joined with Marion County officials to break ground on the new Kimball store in November 2022, Smith thought the store would be ready by last fall. But delays in getting electric switching equipment for the new supermarket pushed back the opening date, Smith said.
"We're glad to finally be open in time for both the Super Bowl and Valentine's Day, which both drive a lot of business for us," Smith said.
The new store has 193 full- and part-time employees with a mixture of new and relocated workers from other Food City locations, Smith said.
"Our people are key to our business, and our new stores give more people the chance to move up and take on new challenges in our company," he said.
Smith said Food City's personalized service, including curbside pickup options for groceries, is key to the success of the family-owned grocery chain.
"They are real friendly here, and I told them I'll be back when the crowd is not as bad," said Sewanee resident John Ladd, one of hundreds of shoppers at the new store Wednesday morning. "It looks like everyone wants to check the new store out."
The new Food City opened Wednesday nearly 37 years after Walmart founder Sam Walton came to Kimball to open the nearby Walmart superstore. The new Food City is also next to Lowe's in Kimball and near the entrance road up Jasper Mountain to the growing Jasper Highlands development.
Smith said he expects to open the new downtown Chattanooga Food City supermarket on Broad Street by June and the grocery chain is expanding its store in Harrison. Smith said Food City is preparing to add a half dozen locations in the Huntsville market, among other new locations.
Food City, which is headquartered in Abingdon, Virginia, operates 153 outlets throughout Southeast Kentucky, Southwest Virginia, East Tennessee, North Georgia and Alabama.
The Food City banner dates back to 1918, with a store in Greeneville, Tennessee. K-VA-T Food Stores, the corporate owner for the Food City brand, dates back to 1955 when Jack C. Smith; his father, Curtis; cousin, Ernest; and uncle, Earl, opened their first Piggly Wiggly in Grundy, Virginia.
The company later acquired several other Piggly Wiggly locations in Southwest Virginia and Eastern Kentucky, followed by Quality Foods/Food City, White Stores, Winn Dixie and Bi-Lo stores in East Tennessee and North Georgia. Food City recently acquired the Cooke's/Fresh n' Low family of stores in Cleveland, Tennessee.
The Smith family continues to have controlling ownership of Food City, although 12% of the company is owned by its employees through an employee stock option plan.
"I tell our employees they work for us, but I also work for them," Smith quipped.