by Lorrie Griffith/editor in chief, editor–Southeast
Over the past couple of years, Virginia probably has seen as much food retail activity as any state in the country.
It’s the state where the long-awaited German discount grocer Lidl has opened the most stores thus far (23); it’s where North Carolina-based Food Lion has invested millions to update its stores in multiple markets; it’s where New York-based Wegmans continues to make its southerly march; and it’s where Florida-based Publix continues to make its northerly march.
Publix, which currently has 10 stores in Virginia, planned to add the 11th in October. The 62,901-s.f. store was set to open Oct. 17 (after press time) in Monticello Marketplace on Monticello Avenue in Williamsburg.
Wegmans has a similar number of Virginia stores—11—and has several other planned stores listed on its website.
A store in Virginia Beach at the southwest corner of U.S. Route 58 and Independence Boulevard is scheduled to open in the spring of 2019.
Wegmans said in August that it is hiring for the Virginia Beach store, which will be the chain’s southernmost store when it opens. The 113,000-s.f. store will employ approximately 500 people, the majority of whom will be hired locally, Wegmans said.
“These jobs offer competitive pay with industry-leading benefits, flexible scheduling and a friendly, positive workplace,” said Store Manager Mike Coyle, who started his Wegmans career as a management trainee in the produce department 25 years ago. “New employees are brought on board quickly for in-depth training on the customer service skills and product knowledge that set our people apart.”
The Virginia Beach store also will feature The Burger Bar, a casual restaurant with burgers, fresh salads, sandwiches, specialty beverages, soup, sides and kids’ meals on the menu.
Other Wegmans store sites also have been disclosed but without opening dates:
- Alexandria (Carlyle)—Eisenhower Avenue exit off Interstate 495 in Fairfax County;
- Arcola—Dulles West Boulevard and Loudoun County Parkway in Loudoun County;
- Reston—Dulles Toll Road (VA Route 267) and Reston Parkway in Fairfax County; and
- Tysons Corner—Capital Beltway and Route 123 in Fairfax County.
Food Lion updates in Roanoke
At press time, Food Lion was about to unveil a “new, easier shopping experience” at its 63 stores across the greater Roanoke area.
The company spent about $91.7 million to remodel the stores, hire nearly 2,000 additional associates and give back to local communities by donating two mobile food trucks to area food banks.
“Roanoke is very special to Food Lion,” said Meg Ham, president of Salisbury, North Carolina-based Food Lion. “We’ve been part of the fabric of this community for 40 years, opening our first store in Martinsville, Virginia. A lot has changed since we opened our first store in this market. We’ve created a new grocery shopping experience through the significant investments in our stores, customers, associates and communities. From our expanded variety and product assortment, newly reorganized stores, new signage to a more efficient checkout experience, every change we’ve made will make it easier for our customers to find fresh, quality products at affordable prices every day.”
Food Lion says the Roanoke-area stores have been merchandised with expanded variety and assortment across departments relevant to customers in each store. That means there are more locally produced items in the “Local Goodness” section; there’s an expanded variety of craft beer and limited reserve wines; and there are more natural, organic and gluten-free items in the stores.
The stores also are offering a bigger selection of complete meals for families and a wider variety of grab-and-go items and pre-sliced deli meats and cheeses.
Some of the stores offer hand-battered chicken and in-store cut fruit and vegetables. Thirteen feature walk-in garden coolers designed to keep produce fresher longer, and 12 now include a wing bar.
“We not only invested in our stores, we also invested in promoting great associates and hiring promising new talent,” Ham added.
The mobile food trucks are being donated to Feeding America of Southwest Virginia and the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank to help them feed the hungry.
With the completion of this market, Food Lion has remodeled 712 of its 1,030 stores in the last four years.
That total includes the 105 stores in the greater Norfolk market that Food Lion held grand reopenings for in late August. The grocer spent $168 million on those stores.
Food Lion has operated stores in the Norfolk market for nearly 40 years. In May, it celebrated the reopening of three Farm Fresh stores that it purchased from Supervalu. They also were located in the greater Norfolk market, in Virginia Beach, Elizabeth City (North Carolina) and Hampton.
Supervalu had announced in March that it was divesting its Farm Fresh banner as part of its move away from operating retail stores to concentrate on its wholesale business (Supervalu currently is in the process of being purchased by United Natural Foods Inc.).
Supervalu found buyers for 21 of the 38 stores operated by Norfolk-based Farm Fresh.
In addition to Food Lion, the buyers were Harris Teeter (a Kroger banner) and Kroger Mid-Atlantic.
North Carolina-based Harris Teeter purchased 10 stores, including three fuel centers, and Kroger Mid-Atlantic picked up eight stores, including four fuel centers.
Supervalu said in mid-March when announcing its exit of Farm Fresh that it was exploring potential transactions for the remaining 17 stores.
Eleven of the stores were closed down, according to a May 14 article in The Virginian-Pilot, which added that two stores in the Hampton Roads area had been sold to independent grocer Chris Lee. The two stores retain the Farm Fresh name—the Chimney Hills store in Virginia Beach and the Denbigh store in Newport News.
That doubled Lee’s store count; he operated Grand Mart International Foods in Virginia Beach and J&J International Market in Woodbridge prior to his Farm Fresh purchase. In addition to keeping Farm Fresh’s touted fried chicken recipe, Lee told the paper he planned to increase the stores’ fresh produce, meat and seafood selections, and lower prices.
Also in mid-May, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Charlottesville’s Neighborhood Grocery Holdings LLC would acquire the Farm Fresh in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom neighborhood.
According to the paper, the 37,000-s.f. store would retain the Farm Fresh name but change some of the products inside. More specialty items and Virginia products—like meat, beer, wine and produce—were planned. The in-store Starbucks would potentially be replaced by a local company, Blanchard’s Coffee Roasting Co.
Grocery Holdings operates Crozet Market and Market Street Market in Charlottesville.
That left three Farm Fresh stores open in Poquoson, James City County and Virginia Beach in mid-May. At the time, Supervalu said the stores would remain open while it continued to work to find buyers.
Kroger Mid-Atlantic associates sign new contract
In September, Kroger Mid-Atlantic division associates working at 22 Kroger stores in the retailer’s Richmond and Hampton Roads, Virginia, market ratified a new labor agreement with The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 400.
“Kroger is a place where you can come for a job and stay for a career. A key driver of Restock Kroger is talent development, and we are committed to investing in associates,” said Tim Massa, Kroger’s chief people officer. “Kroger Mid-Atlantic in Richmond and Hampton Roads is one of several Kroger markets across the country experiencing significant wage increases.”
The Mid-Atlantic division agreement raises starting wages to $9.50 an hour for part-time associates and $10 an hour for full-time associates. After one year of service, wages move to $10 an hour for part-time and $11 an hour for full-time. This is in addition to overall wage rate increases, healthcare benefits and contributions to a pension fund to support associates in retirement.
This agreement covers more than 3,200 associates in the Richmond, Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach and Norfolk areas.
“We are pleased to reach an agreement that is good for our associates,” said Jerry Clontz, president of the Mid-Atlantic division. “This new contract provides significant wage increases, maintains affordable Kroger-sponsored healthcare and continued investments in our associates’ pension fund for their retirement. I appreciate our associates for supporting this agreement and for the excellent service they provide our customers every day.”
The Mid-Atlantic division includes 109 stores in Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio.
Dollar Tree consolidating NC/VA store support centers
As part of its continuing integration of Family Dollar’s organization and support functions, Dollar Tree plans to consolidate its store support centers in Matthews, North Carolina, and Chesapeake, Virginia, into its newly completed office tower in the Summit Pointe development in Chesapeake, where Dollar Tree is based.
“Leadership from both banners has continued to work together to integrate our two organizations and invest in future growth,” said Gary Philbin, Dollar Tree CEO. “By bringing our teams together into one location, we will further improve our ability to support our stores more effectively through enhanced collaboration, communication and teamwork. The completion of our expanded headquarters in Virginia will facilitate the most important phase of the integration, and we are excited about the opportunities ahead for the Dollar Tree and Family Dollar banners.”
“Our new 12-story, 510,000-s.f. office tower represents the anchor of a dynamic campus environment serving the needs of our associates,” said Bob Sasser, Dollar Tree’s executive chairman.
The consolidation should be completed by fall 2019. While Family Dollar’s headquarters in Matthews will be closed, the distribution center in Matthews will remain open to serve Family Dollar stores.
Dollar Tree operates more than 15,000 stores across 48 states and five Canadian provinces.