The McLeod family is somewhat unique in its business interests. Ricky McLeod’s grandfather has been in the grocery industry since the 1940s. After his death, McLeod’s father, Billy, took over the food retail side and continues in it to this day. In fact, at age 92, he still comes into the office Monday through Friday, Ricky McLeod said.
Alongside the McLeods’ grocery business, known as Piggly Wiggly Central, they own and manage a farm. Run by McLeod’s father and brother, the site boasts 400 heads of black Angus beef cattle and about 3,500 acres of row crops.
And the McLeod family has a longtime personal relationship with The Pig. McLeod’s grandfather’s store was called Mac Supermarkets until he met Joe Newton, founder of Piggly Wiggly Carolina.
“Mr. Joe Newton, back in the day, was building the warehouse in Charleston and he was coming around to all the independents to get them to put the Piggly Wiggly name on the side of their building,” McLeod explained.
McLeod even met the legendary wholesaler when he was a young grocery clerk.
“He would come around in his car to all the Piggly Wigglys. He was the nicest and the smartest guy that I’ve ever known,” McLeod said. “He built the Piggly Wiggly brand in South Carolina, and everybody was his family.
“He was out checking on all the independents. He would see what they needed, asking ‘what can I do to make it better,’” McLeod said. “He’s just one of a kind.”
McLeod said Piggly Wiggly is a brand that people have always gravitated to because “no matter who you walk in as, you’re family.”
In addition to his role as co-owner of the family’s Piggly Wigglys, McLeod looks after 150 head of Texas longhorns on property he purchased from his father. According to a report in The Sumter Item, McLeod is the owner of the only registered herd of Texas longhorns in South Carolina. He also owns three Mac’s Place Spirits liquor stores, Mac’s Place Party Shop and a restaurant called Willie Sue’s.
Out of all his businesses, ranching is by far his favorite. He said it’s the best way to “get away from everything. The cows are just peaceful, and you can’t help but feel at peace when you’re out there taking care of them.”
However, the grocery business is the most stressful. At one point, the family had 16 Piggly Wigglys. That is now down to eight across seven counties in South Carolina. When downsizing, McLeod sold a few to Piggly Wiggly Carolina alumnus Lynn Willard, who also bought some stores from Piggly Wiggly Southeast.
While the McLeods’ businesses were not failing, the family realized they weren’t thriving and there was more to gain from letting some locations go. “It also saved me about 100,000 miles a year on my car,” McLeod said.
The eight grocery stores have seen much success. In fact, they continue to be one of family’s more profitable businesses. Earlier this year, two of the stores finished remodels. McLeod said the projects were focused primarily on the meat and produce departments, which received energy-efficient refrigeration. They were the third and fourth stores to receive this treatment.
The project to replace the refrigeration in all eight stores has been a nearly three-year project. The locations are also receiving LED fixtures, fresh paint and new equipment.
“We’ve been in this business since 1952 or so,” he said. “And if you know anything about the grocery business or just business in general, you’re always putting money into it. We’re constantly putting money back into the stores. Whether it’s painting, whether it’s retiling or ordering new equipment, you’re constantly doing something.”
To read more from Piggly Wiggly Southeast by The Shelby Report, click here.