CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Grocer Food City doubled up Thursday as it broke ground on a pair of new supermarkets in the area, investing heavily in Bradley and Polk counties.
“It’s rare to have a two-a-day groundbreaking,” Food City Chief Executive Steve Smith said to about 50 people who turned out at 4525 Georgetown Road in Cleveland, where the company is putting up a 50,000-square-foot store.
Earlier in the day, Smith and other officials marked the start of work on a 46,000-square-foot supermarket in Ocoee, Tennessee, at 116 Whitewater Drive.
“Polk County doesn’t have a major grocery store,” he said, adding that about 100 people attended that groundbreaking.
Food City is investing more than $30 million in the new supermarkets and an addition to an existing store in Cleveland, Smith said.
“They’ve got a lot of people moving here,” he said. “There are a lot of housing developments.”
The CEO of Southeast Tennessee’s biggest grocery store operator said plans are for the new supermarkets to open in spring 2024. They’ll replace two much smaller Fresh n’ Low markets that Food City acquired in 2022 as part of its purchase of Cooke’s Food Stores.
Plans are to keep the employees at the two markets and then hire about 250 more employees for the new stores, Smith said.
Mike Griffin, the Cleveland-Bradley Chamber of Commerce’s president and chief executive, told the group that Food City officials see the growth going on there.
“I know the residents will be happy to see you guys,” said Griffin about Food City, which eventually will have five stores in the Cleveland market.
The new supermarkets are in “the next phase of Cleveland’s modernization and growth,” Doug Berry, the chamber’s vice president of economic development, said at the groundbreaking.
“How do you accommodate the incoming population?” he asked. “An important part is to have a growing community and increased level of services.”
A new five-lane highway is under construction in front of the store’s location, Cleveland City Councilman Ken Webb said in an interview. The area draws a lot of traffic from workers traveling between counties, and the new store will benefit, he said.
Each supermarket will offer a pharmacy with a drive-through, Gas N’ Go fuel stations and a Starbucks cafe, according to the company.
Also, each will hold an in-store bakery and deli with a hot food bar, cafe seating area, fireplace, Asian wok, fresh food bar offering a variety of soup, salad and fruit selections, hickory wood smoker, brick pizza oven and fresh sushi, Food City said.
In addition to full-service meat and seafood departments, a floral boutique will be staffed with a designer seven days a week, according to the grocer, and stores will offer checkout service at five traditional lanes and seven self-checkouts.
Supply chain issues for grocers are easing, though obtaining equipment, which includes computer chips, can be a problem, Smith said in an interview.
“Steel is much better,” he said about the price of the key construction material.
Last November, Food City began work on a downtown Chattanooga supermarket at a site that will include townhouses along with retail and office space in a first for the grocer.
The more than $15 million project will hold a 53,000-square-foot store on a Southside block bounded by Broad, Main, and 13th streets and a greenway. The 5.7-acre site, where Carter Distributing Co. had operated for many years, will include six two-level townhouses on 13th Street as well as 16,000 square feet of commercial space on Broad.
Smith said that project is still on target to open in the second quarter of 2024.
Headquartered in Abingdon, Virginia, Food City parent K-VA-T Food Stores operates 150 retail outlets in East Tennessee, North Georgia and Alabama, Southeast Kentucky and Southwest Virginia.
Contact Mike Pare at [email protected] or 423-757-6318.