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Retailers Relish Family Feel Of Doing Business With Piggly Wiggly Alabama

Piggly Wiggly Alabama

Anthony Marino, Keith Milligan, Steve Garrett and Cody McDaniel are retailers who are part of Piggly Wiggly Alabama Distributing Co. All own their respective stores and some have been buying from the company for decades.

“I can’t remember the year when it happened, but it’s been, I would say, probably one of the best moves we’ve ever made,” said Milligan of JTM Corp.

PWADC hosts three annual food shows where retailers get to meet and speak directly with the supplier. The Shelby Report caught up with the four retailers, as well as PWADC President and CEO Jerry McCann, to learn why they chose to become part of the company and why it deserves the title of “Hometown Hero.” 

McDaniel spoke to his experience with Hurricane Michael in 2018. His stores in northern Florida were in serious danger, but a conversation with McCann set his mind at ease.

“Michael came over and tracked right across the line where all our stores are. I remember sitting in a room at my house, and we didn’t have power,” he recalled. “I was just figuring how much inventory we’d lost. I knew it was going to be a very huge obstacle.

“I called Jerry McCann on the phone and said, ‘Jerry I’m going to have a lot of inventory to replace. I’m really worried about our cash flow because it’s going to be quite a bit of money.’ Jerry said, ‘Whatever you need me to do, we’re here for you.’”

The distributor was able to get McDaniel what he needed. He was even able to give away some of his inventory to first responders, members of the community and his employees who were affected by the natural disaster. 

McCann expounded further: “Right after the hurricane, there were almost riots down there of people trying to get food. People were trying to get in and the police had to show up…they weren’t allowed to serve anybody until they had electricity back. 

“One lady walked up saying, ‘I’ve got to have formula for my baby.’ Well, the police still wouldn’t let anybody in. So [McDaniel] told the woman to come back later and go around back…When she came back, he gave her the formula. She asked, ‘How much do I owe you?’ He said, ‘You have it.’ And he went back inside. That’s just one of the many things that all of our stores do to take care of their communities.”

For Milligan, PWADC showed its “hometown hero” mettle during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When COVID first hit, we were working our employees,” he said. “They were working something like 60, 70, 80 hours a week. I was so afraid that they would be upset. But so many of our customers came in and thanked our employees for being there and being open. 

“You could tell their chest is poked out with pride, and we didn’t have a single complaint from a single employee. They felt that they were having a chance to do the most important thing they’d ever done in their life.”

Garrett then spoke to the experience his Garrett Foods’ stores had with COVID-19. 

“Our people were able to come together at that point. And they gave their all,” he said. “They gave more than what we could have asked for. We were right there with them all day long because those times when we’d be open, we’d just get completely rushed.

“They did everything we knew to do – everything we could do – to keep our people safe and still serve and still be there. But our people stood up. People stayed on even when I knew they wanted to go home. We’d even have to do second shifts on some of those days just to be able to work the trucks when the store closed. 

“That is just one of those times I really feel proud to have people actually stand up when there’s all these struggles.”

Marino shared some of his family’s history, including his grandfather opening a grocery business in 1925. He likened that family to being part of the Piggly Wiggly Alabama Distribution Center. Until recently, Marino’s stores had been supplied by another company. 

“I’m thankful that we’ve got people with parentage and history that we can bounce things off of,” he said. “All of us retailers in this business. When I look at business and people say, ‘I hope this happens. I hope that happens.’ Hope is not a strategy. You’ve got to have a plan. 

“My plan was to stay with [previous supplier]…when my son, AJ, came into the business, he said, ‘Dad we’re moving.’ I asked him where we’re moving to. He said he was planning on interviewing all the warehouses. 

“We put one store in Piggly Wiggly, and we saw that it was one of the best. We wanted to feel them out and compare the programs. But not long after that, we put our stores in and that’s where I see them staying. 

“In business, you’ve got ups and downs. Our store is no different. But our warehouse, Piggly Wiggly, is well run and it comes from the top down. Jerry McCann, we call him the Energizer Bunny. I’ve got enough energy in my legs, but Jerry McCann has got more. You’ve got to have good leadership and Jerry McCann brings the best.”

McCann expounded on the culture of the warehouse. 

“What we preach at the warehouse all the time, ‘It’s not us and they.’ That’s how we make it work,” he said. “Without these folks, we wouldn’t be here. 

“We’ve got really good people who are our customers and also our friends. We’re all in this together and we all push hard to make sure our customers are well serviced.”

Keith Milligan echoed those sentiments and reiterated his stance on The Pig.

“I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, changing our business to the Piggly Wiggly warehouse is the best thing that we’ve ever done,” he said.

“I feel like the warehouse here is part of our business. It’s not the retailers versus the wholesalers trying to work to take advantage of each other. We’re working together as one group, and this is just another part of our business.”

McDaniel agreed, describing the relationship as “so much like a family.”

“I can pick up the phone and call Jerry any time of the day or night, seven days a week, and he’s going to answer that phone. He’s going to take the call and talk to me. I don’t feel like I’m called the president of the warehouse. I’m calling somebody that’s a friend. We’re partners in a business and their success has been our success. 

“We’ve looked [around], even in the past few years, and I am certain that [PWADC] is the best fit to give our customers the best value every day. The service levels are great. I know the drivers by name…[loads] are on time. They’ve done a good job.”

For more information, visit pwadc.net.

About the author

Jack R. Jordan

Content Creator

Jordan joined The Shelby Report in May 2022 after over a year in the newspaper industry. A native of Marietta, Georgia, he studied writing and communications at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. He spends too much time in the grocery store trying to find recipe ingredients, so he looks forward to covering the industry.

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