Food City will close one of its two East Ridge stores on April 2, but the grocery chain is planning to build a newer, more modern supermarket to replace the shuttered supermarket later this year only a mile south just over the Georgia line.

"This is a really old store we acquired when we bought Bi-Lo (in 2015) and we had no long-term plans for this store except to replace it," Food City CEO Steven C. Smith said Friday about its supermarket at 6723 Ringgold Road next to the Flea Market just off Exit 1 on Interstate 75. "We've got a piece of property just south of this store on Highway 41 that is going to be the replacement facility and we're going to have that store open before the year is out."

Smith said Food City originally planned to keep operating the existing store until the new 48,000-square-foot replacement supermarket is built and open in seven or eight months.

"Unfortunately, our landlord has become quite uncooperative and has raised our rent a substantial amount," Smith said. "Rather than have a disagreement with him, we decided we would just close this store and take our people that work there and get them some training at other stores while we build our new supermarket. Nobody is going to lose his or her job and we're going to have a new and more modern Food City to offer our customers later this year."

The existing store was built as a Red Food Store in 1974 and presented ongoing refrigeration, plumbing and flooring challenges, Smith said.

Smith said the land for the new store was bought a couple of weeks ago "and we've been working with the city of Fort Oglethorpe to get water and sewer" to build and open the store before the Christmas holidays.

"It's time to build a new store and we think that's a good area in the greater Chattanooga area to have a new supermarket," he said.

The 48 employees who work at the Food City that will close in early April will be offered positions at one of the other Food City outlets operated by the Abingdon, Va.-based grocery chain.

Food City parent K-VA-T operates 132 retail outlets throughout Southeast Kentucky, Southwest Virginia, East Tennessee and North Georgia.

The company said in 2015 after it entered the Chattanooga market that it planned to spend up to $50 million over three years on the 29 area Bi-Lo stores it acquired to make it the area's biggest grocery chain.

Smith said the East Ridge store 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.

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