By MIKE WILLIAMS
Ground was broken Wednesday morning for Pulaski’s new Food City store on the site of the former Lee Jeans building along East Main Street.
Local government leaders and businesspeople attended the event, as well as local and corporate Food City officials.
Those who turned out were welcomed by Pulaski Mayor Shannon Collins and Pulaski County Board of Supervisors Chairman Laura Walters.
Collins told Food City officials if they need anything during the construction project, to come to the town.
“You’ve been part of our town, part of our community and we’re so proud to say you are staying and enlarging. Thank you for investing more money into our town,” Collins said.
“We’re so excited and happy for the town, happy for Food City for your expansion,” said Walters. “It feeds right into our ‘40 by 30’ campaign we are doing.”
“Anything the county can do for you we’re happy to do. I’m looking forward to the construction and hoping everything goes smooth and fast,” she added.
Incoming Chamber of Commerce President, Sean Pressman, CEO of LewisGale Hospital-Pulaski spoke on how Food City supports the local business community by providing products, but also in selling local products. As an example, Pressman said the local Ironheart Winery will be featured in the new Food City, among others.
State Senator Travis Hackworth told a story as only he can about supporting local business. He spoke of how Food City has always supported the communities where it is located by helping out in times of need. He also praised the stores’ reputation for customer service.
Ninth District Congressman Morgan Griffith noted Food City’s footprint now extends to five states.
“But their heart is still in Southwest Virginia,” Griffith stated, adding that Food City CEO Steven Smith is “always looking out for Southwest Virginia.”
“That’s what he is doing here – making sure that Pulaski has a top-of-the-line store,” Griffith said, adding that “if you’ve been to any of their other either upgraded or new stores, you know they are second-to-none when it comes to having a great environment and great products on the shelf.”
Smith said he is proud to be from Southwest Virginia and a second-generation grocer, relating how – as a young child – he hung around his father’s store.
“I cut my teeth literally in a grocery store,” Smith said, adding “I can’t tell you how much fun it is to lead a company of over 18,000 teammates like I have.”
“Our company is successful not because of me or my family,” Smith said. “It is successful because of the people that we have that work hard every day to take care of their communities.”
He saluted several of his company’s leaders on hand for the event, including Roxanna Jones, who will be the manager of the new store in Pulaski.
Smith said Food City talks about local “and we are local,” noting that when you see Food City trucks on the highway, they’re Volvo trucks built right up the road.
“So we get the local part of business,” he added.
Smith said the current Food City store was opened in the late 90’s and has been a great facility and Pulaski County area residents have supported it well.
“But,” he noted, “It is one of our smaller formats, and we’re limited on what we can do in there. We know in today’s environment folks want more variety, more selection, more things to choose from. That’s what we’re going to deliver to you here in this new store.
“It’s gonna’ be almost 55,000 square feet and we’ll probably create at least 80 new jobs,” Smith said.
He added the store will include a full-blown food service sit-down café complete with Starbucks fireplace “where you can mingle and relax, have a meal in the morning, afternoon or in the evening.”
He said the store will have expanded grocery, frozen dairy departments.
“Our meat department will have the full service meat and seafood, but it will be expanded and upgraded,” Smith said, adding it will also have sushi in the store. “I know that will be a big attraction and a big treat.”
Noting Food City is one of the few companies that will employ 14- and 15-year-olds, Smith said plans are to open the new store in the first quarter of 2024.