Town of Erwin and Unicoi County officials join representatives of Food City in the ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony for the new Food City store in the Town of Erwin. The company hopes to have the new store opened in approximately six months. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

On Wednesday, Dec. 19, the bulldozers and jackhammers stopped for a brief moment for the official groundbreaking ceremony at the future site of Food City in Erwin. Representatives from Food City, including President and CEO Steven Smith were present to break ground with representatives from Unicoi County and the Town of Erwin.

“It’s good to have you here in Unicoi County,” Unicoi County Commissioner Chairman Loren Thomas said to Smith.

The groundbreaking officially starts the clock on the opening of the roughly 44,000 square foot supermarket near Taco Bell, Bojangles’ and Pal’s in Erwin. Depending on the weather this season, the construction could be done in six months.

“We hope to have a Food City here in early summer,” Smith said.

The new store is expected to generate 140 jobs to the area.

“We have about $11.5 million dollars invested in this facility,” Smith stated.

The new store will also feature several award-winning energy saving concepts, ranging from energy efficient glass cooler doors, parking lot lights and refrigeration systems to motion sensors and 100 percent LED lighting, as well as an open rafter ceiling design.

“Our customers can expect to find the same smiling faces, top quality products and competitive pricing they have come to expect from Food City, housed in a more energy efficient model, along with some exciting new features and conveniences,” Smith stated.

According to a press release from Food City, the location will include an in-store bakery/deli, complete with a hot food bar and café seating area. Full-service meat and seafood departments will offer pre-marinated and seasoned oven ready products, plus a complete selection of top quality meats that are all-natural with no solutions added, including Certified Angus Beef.  In-house meat cutters will hand-cut steaks and fresh meat to order.

Expanded grocery, frozen food and produce departments will offer a complete selection of gourmet, international and specialty items. Rapid checkout service will be provided by six traditional checkout lanes, one express lane and four self-checkouts. For added convenience, the store will include a Food City Pharmacy, equipped with a drive-thru for greater ease in prescription services, a Food City Gas n’ Go and Go Cart curbside pick-up, which allows customers to shop online and pick-up their order when they arrive at the store.

The 140 jobs are something that Town of Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley and Smith can agree is a huge boost for the people of Erwin and Unicoi County.

“The interesting thing about who we employ is, for a lot of folks it’s their first job, for a lot folks it’s their last job,” Smith said of the generational diversity in Food City’s workforce.

When Food City begins hiring for their store, according to Hensley, they should see a solid return on investment.

“We pride ourselves on our work ethic here, and in our school systems we try to teach that,” Hensley said of the workers of Erwin.

Food City is one of many businesses that have committed to the growth of the Town of Erwin and Unicoi County.

“I think with Food City here you are going to see a lot happening, and with the hospital you are going to start seeing more growth in the south side,” Hensley said.

The addition of Food City opens the doors for other opportunities as well.

“This offers so many opportunities for the people of Unicoi County,” Joint Economic Development Board of Unicoi County Executive Director Tyler Engle said of Food City opening in the summer.

Food City is part of a larger plan to bring more businesses to Erwin.

“We hope to be a catalyst to help Erwin to grow and prosper,” Smith told The Erwin Record.

The excitement for Food City was evident in the groundbreaking ceremony.

“We are so appreciative of Food City for coming to Erwin, this is the best Christmas present ever,” Hensley said of welcoming Food City to Erwin.

Food City representatives were also feeling the excitement of the collaboration between Erwin and the supermarket company.

“We want to be a good partner with Erwin and Unicoi County, we want to recognize the character of the community,” Smith told The Erwin Record.

Smith, who is from a small town that has similar demographics as Erwin, is invested in the growth of Erwin.

“I will commit to you that not only are we going to build you a fine supermarket, but our folks will be a great community partner,” Smith said. “We will invest in your nonprofits and do our part to make Erwin a great place to live and to raise children.”