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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / A sign stands at the site of a new Food City in East Ridge on Wednesday, September 29, 2021. The new store, at 3636 Ringgold Road, will be about 30% larger, feature a cafe, a Starbucks, sushi, a pizza oven, expanded produce and more.

Food City on Wednesday broke ground on what officials said is a state-of-the-art, $12 million supermarket in East Ridge that also will draw shoppers from nearby Brainerd, East Lake and North Georgia.

"We're building a bigger store with more amenities," Food City Chief Executive Steve Smith said about the 3636 Ringgold Road store that will replace one of the grocer's older supermarkets nearby.

At 54,000 square feet in size, the new store will be a third larger than the existing unit when it opens in late spring or early summer in 2022, said Smith.

The new supermarket on a 7-acre tract that formerly held a bowling alley also will employ about 110 full- and part-time employees, up from 75 workers in the existing store, he said.

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Food City working on $12 million East Ridge store

Smith said the supermarket will hold a full sit-down cafe with a Starbucks, a Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union branch, full-service catering and event planning, a Gas 'N Go station and a variety of other offerings.

"It's a one-stop shopping event," he told about 30 people at the groundbreaking.

East Ridge Mayor Brian Williams said the new supermarket will help energize that end of the city.

"It will be a catalyst in the revitalization of the west end of the city," he said. East Ridge offered a Border Region Retail Development District state sales tax incentive for the project.

Williams said that while the area near Interstate-75 and Ringgold Road is growing, officials are trying to spur more business in the middle and west end of the city.

"We're working diligently to get business this way," he said, citing the recent additions of Southern Honda Powersports and Pandora's European Motorsports on Ringgold Road.

Plans are to help Food City back fill the existing unit when the new store opens, the mayor said.

State Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, said the new store will pull residents not just from East Ridge but East Lake where there is "a food desert."

"This location won't just help the west side of East Ridge," he said, also mentioning the Brainerd area.

Smith said the existing Food City is an older one it acquired when the Abingdon, Virginia-based company entered the Chattanooga market with the purchase of 29 Bi-Lo supermarkets in the area in 2015.

"It's been a good store for a number of years," he said. "It's dated and upkeep is expensive."

The Food City CEO said one of the grocer's goals was to improve its facilities in East Ridge.

"This end of East Ridge is ripe for redevelopment," Smith said.

In downtown Chattanooga, Food City has begun clearing the site of the first full-scale supermarket to be built in the central city in about three decades. That new supermarket at Broad and Main streets is to open in the spring of 2023.

That site also will hold six 2-story townhouses to be erected along 13th Street.

Smith said Food City is building a new store in Bartow County outside Cartersville, Georgia. That will become the company's southern-most unit as Food City now has a store in Calhoun, Georgia.

But Smith said there are no plans to enter the Atlanta market.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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