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Food City CEO expects store to open in July

In an interview with The Erwin Record, Food City CEO Steven Smith said the company expects its new Erwin store will be open by the end of July. “We are pretty excited about all the amenities that we will have,” Smith said. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

Spring has sprung and with the mild weather, construction has really progressed on the future Food City store. Last December, Food City President and CEO Steven Smith met with representatives from the Town of Erwin for the groundbreaking of the roughly 44,000 square foot supermarket.

Smith recently spoke with The Erwin Record about the progress being made at the future home of the supermarket on Second Street in Erwin.

“We’ve got all the steel up, we’ve poured half the floor, and from what I hear we will have the store closed up next week,” Smith said. “Closing the store up means you’ve got the floor poured and the steel up and at that time it doesn’t matter if it rains much since the building is secured.”

Smith acknowledged that Food City is still slated to open in Erwin this summer.

“We are excited,” Smith said. “Our plan is still to have the store open by the end of July; we feel that is realistic. It could be a little quicker than that, it could be a little longer than that. We are aiming to be up and running within three months.”

The new Food City will have spaces available for other businesses.

“To my knowledge, we haven’t had any signed leases at this point, but it is fair to say we are speaking to some prospects,” Smith said. “We generally get interests from restaurants, nail salons and a variety of other businesses.”

According to Smith, the 5,000-6,000 square foot spaces could be used for up to roughly three to five shops.

The construction on the Food City gas station is coming along on pace with the storefront.

“I think the gas station will open when the store does,” Smith said. “I know we have the tanks in the ground, and we have had success getting our other gas stations together in a matter of three months.”

According to Smith, the gas station will also have several items for purchase.

“We will have odds and ends for sale at the gas station,” Smith said. “We will also have cases of water and firewood at the gas station.”

According to Smith, the firewood could be a year around seller for the supermarket.

“Believe it or not, we sell a lot of firewood during the spring and summer months with all the lakes and all of the camping in the area,” Smith said.

Smith is already looking forward to interviewing potential employees.

“It won’t be long before we interview people,” Smith said. “Generally we hire about 60 days out. We can train people at our Johnson City and our Jonesborough stores where we have the departments for them and they can get the expertise that they need.”

Smith hopes to hire roughly 100 people for the Erwin store.

“We will need roughly  120-130 people and I’m sure we will have some of our seasoned employees to transfer in; so I would say that we are looking to hire roughly 100 people,” Smith said.

The Erwin Food City will have several of the same features as the other regional Food City stores.

“We will have the curbside pickup Go Cart services,” Smith said. “We will also have our full-service pharmacy. We will have our full-service seafood and meat departments there, and we will have a sit-down cafe there as well. We are pretty excited about all the amenities that we will have.”

Smith acknowledged that Erwin and Unicoi County have been receptive to the supermarket coming to town.

“I don’t know of another town that we have opened up a supermarket in that we have been more warmly received then we have in Erwin and Unicoi County,” Smith said. “The city leaders, and the Unicoi County Joint Economic Development Board have been so welcoming.”

Smith said he recently ran into Unicoi County Joint Economic Development Board President Lee Brown at an event in Kingsport.

“Lee Brown came over and spoke to me and welcomed me,” Smith said. “It really makes you feel welcome when you go into a community like Erwin and the people are excited about the job possibilities, the selection, and the prices, we look forward to it being a really successful store.”