Food City has just opened its second location in Fort Oglethorpe.
The new store at 150 U.S. Highway 41 (just across the Tennessee/Georgia line from East Ridge and with a Ringgold address) features a full line of groceries, an in-store and drive-through pharmacy and a large seafood and hand-rolled sushi department. All meat is cut in-house. Customers can order online and enjoy curbside pickup. There is a branch of Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union in the store, and the location will soon have a gas station.
A short trip back in time: Jack Smith was fresh out of a seven-year stint in the Navy and based in California. A job offer fell through and he decided to head back to his mother’s house in southwest Virginia. One day, his mom asked him to pick up some groceries. It took Smith half an hour to buy a few items. He decided he could create a better shopping experience. So he bought a Piggly Wiggly franchise. The year was 1955. Today, Smith’s son runs the chain that grew into Food City and now owns 132 stores.
“Growing up, during elementary and junior high school,” says CEO and President Steven Smith, “we lived next to the store. I never intended to get involved in the business, but I gave it a chance and stayed with it.”
Smith says he views a grocery store as something that should be community-focused and should contribute to the success of a town, helping make it a place people want to live and move to. Food City is a partially employee-owned chain, which, says Smith, is one of many things that differentiates it from big box stores.
The new, nearly 50,000-square-foot facility will employ 140-150 people, 40% of whom will be full-time. Smith says the store also works with services for those with physical and mental challenges to provide some jobs for their clients.
Buying and selling locally grown produce and eggs is another of Food City’s practices. Smith says it may take a while to establish the practice in this area, but it will be a goal of the local stores. “There are regulations to follow and inspections. For practical purposes, we usually have to work with larger growers, but we’re happy to hear from all local farmers and let them know what the guidelines are.”
The practice of buying locally, says Smith, dates back to the days in Virginia when tobacco farmers lost federal subsidies and were struggling trying to transition to growing new crops. Smith’s company stepped in to help with the transition and also bought the crops and sold them in their stores.
Another of Food City’s commitments is to helping local schools with “Food City School Bucks.” Customers can get “loyalty cards” and register them on Food City’s website, pick a school of their choice, and Food City will donate computer equipment and other items to the school based on purchases of all those who have chosen the school.
Food City also has programs that collect gifts for children in the Appalachia area and food for shelter animals. They collect for the Juvenile Diabetes Association and Race Against Hunger. They partner with NASCAR racer Richard Petty to benefit Paralyzed Veterans of America’s Mission ABLE, and they are involved in many sports as sponsors and partners to benefit various causes, including cancer research.
The newest Food City held an open house and Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting Jan. 29 and opened its doors to the public for business the next morning.
“Our manager at the store is Myron McCormick,” says Smith. “I think people will be pleased with the job he’ll do. We’re excited about expanding into the North Georgia area.”