Food City chief executive Steve Smith said Wednesday that three stores the grocery chain is building in Northwest Georgia are part of up to $60 million that Food City is now plowing into the Chattanooga market.
Smith, standing in front of a supermarket under construction on Mission Ridge Road in Walker County, Ga., said the new units show the company's commitment to the area.
New Food City stores
› 820 Mission Ridge Road in Walker County
› 540 Highway U.S. 41, Ringgold
› 1308 W. Walnut Avenue, Dalton
"It's a real opportunity for us," he said, adding that plans are to break ground today on the two other stores — one in Ringgold near the Tennessee line and another in Dalton, Ga.
Smith said the Walker County and Fort Oglethorpe supermarkets are replacement stores. The new Walker County store is replacing a 46-year-old outlet originally built by the former Red Food Stores.
Smith said he considers the Dalton supermarket to be a new store that's part of a larger retail development at Walnut Avenue and Tibbs Road.
The Abingdon, Va.-based company said after it entered the Chattanooga area in 2015 that it planned to spend $40 million to $50 million in the market after purchasing 29 area Bi-Lo stores. Smith said that figure has now jumped to between $50 million and $60 million.
He said that the old stores Food City is replacing "never had a penny put back into them."
Also, Smith said that while the old Walker County store was torn down to make way for the new unit, none of the employees lost their jobs but instead were transferred to other units.
When the new store opens, it will employ from 50 to 70 more people than the old one, he said. The new store, which will be nearly twice the size of the one it replaced, will have a lot of new features such as a full-service pharmacy with drive-through, sit-down bakery cafe and a Gas n' Go fueling station.
Daryl Massey, Food City's district manager, said that larger departments in the new unit will allow for enhanced variety and selection and greater ease maneuvering.
"I am confident that our customers are going to be pleased," he said.
Lacey Wilson, the Walker County Chamber of Commerce president, said the new store is "a much-needed update." Wilson said she recalls going into the old store in the early 1990s when she was in elementary school.
"It keeps the dollars local," she added.
Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield said he lives near the site of the new store under construction. He quipped that his wife has "put me on notice that's where we're going to start shopping."
Smith said the Walker County store is to open in late June while the Dalton and Fort Oglethorpe stores are slated to open in October or November.
In Dalton, a 48,000-square-foot store will anchor a new $20 million retail center at the site of the last remaining Kmart store in the Chattanooga region.
"It's been a good market to us," said Smith. "We do like it and see that as a growth area."
Earlier this month, Food City closed one of its two East Ridge stores, but the grocery chain is planning to build a newer supermarket only a mile south just over the Georgia line.
Smith said the store servicing East Ridge will be the 15th former Bi-Lo store that Food City has either rebuilt or replaced since entering the market less than four years ago.
Food City parent K-VA-T operates 132 retail outlets throughout Southeast Kentucky, Southwest Virginia, East Tennessee and North Georgia.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.
This story has been updated to clarify that one of the new Food City stores is being built in Ringgold, not Fort Oglethorpe.