Representatives from Food City join Unicoi County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely, Town of Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley, Erwin Food City Store Manager Jacob Ratliff, Miss Food City Megan Grace Stanley, and Food City CEO and President Steve Smith in cutting the ribbon at the new Food City at 110 N. Industrial Drive, Erwin. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

Katie Bowser purchases groceries during the grand opening of Food City in Erwin. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

In less than a year since a groundbreaking ceremony took place, Food City’s Erwin store officially opened to shoppers on Wednesday, July 31.

Convenient, great and wonderful were some of the words that customers used to describe the new 44,000 square foot supermarket.

“It was a convenient and great experience,” shopper Katie Bowser said. “I will definitely shop here again.”

Shopper April Marotta agreed with Bowser.

“This is a wonderful store,” she said. “My son (Ian Marotta) is excited about the hot bar and the fresh pizza.”

The Food City store is located on property that once housed the Hoover Ball Bearing plant until 2007 and for former Erwin resident Jerry Huskins the store represents how far Erwin has come.

“I never thought I would see the day Erwin had a Food City; it’s unreal, it’s great,” Huskins said. “I remember when this was Hoover Ball.”

Food City representative Jesse Duncan said the new store will be an asset to the community.

“I grew up in Erwin and I’ve seen a lot of failed needs in Erwin that Food City will be able to meet,” Duncan said. “From our hot bar, meat cutters and to our GoCart Service, these are going to be great services to our customers.”

GoCart Service allows customers to shop online and drive to the store and have the GoCart personal shopper deliver the items to their vehicle, saving time and a trip from going inside the store to shop. To order the GoCart Service go to Foodcity.com.

Food City’s Director of Front-End Operations and E-Commerce Hannah Smith is pleased with the response by shoppers at the Erwin Food CIty.

“Everyone has been so nice, and we had two people use the GoCart Service on day one, which is unusual but great,” Smith said. “I recommend using the service because it allows you to stay on budget, and the online service allows you to save your lists, search recipes and add ingredients to your order.”

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A ribbon cutting ceremony for the new store was held on Tuesday, July 30.

“This is something that the community has looked forward to for many years,” Town of Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley said. “I think it’s a good fit for Erwin and Unicoi County.”

According to Hensley, the Town of Erwin should see an increase in sales tax revenue moving forward from the addition of Food City.

Hensley joined Unicoi County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely in welcoming Food City CEO and President Steve Smith to Unicoi County during the ribbon cutting.

“It’s an honor to welcome you and to make you a part of our community,” Hensley said to Smith. Evely echoed Hensley’s remarks.

“We are certainly proud to have Food City here; it will bring jobs to our community and we appreciate that so much,” Evely said. “It also gives customers a chance to spend their money here in Unicoi County.”

According to Smith, Food City currently employs 125 associates.

“It is a real honor and privilege to see this many people come out to the opening of our store,” Smith said during the ribbon cutting. “This is the 132nd Food City store. My family started with one Piggly Wiggly store, and here we are.”

Unicoi County Director of Schools John English sees the store as an excellent place for students to work.

“This is a great opportunity for those students that currently have jobs here, and it is a great place to have a career,” English said. “It’s exciting.”

Unicoi County Joint Economic Development Executive Director Tyler Engle, who both Smith and Hensley acknowledged as being an integral part in bringing Food City to Erwin, was happy to see the store open.

“We are very excited and very pleased to see how this project has turned out and the community is excited,” Engle said. “We look forward to moving forward in partnership with Food City.”

During the ribbon cutting ceremony, the crowd was treated to a flag raising in a collaboration between the Unicoi County High School ROTC and the VFW Post 6975 with music provided by the UCHS marching band.

Following the flag raising, the community was welcomed into the store to shop and to taste many of the samples of food that Food City offers.

“I am so proud to be a part of Erwin, to work with the county and town to make this happen, and to be able to serve the public is great,” Smith said. “There are a lot of positive things going on here in Erwin and Unicoi County.”

The Erwin Food City includes 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 check-out lanes, one express lane and four self-check-outs.

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 GoCart curbside pick-up, which allows customers to shop online at foodcity.com and pick-up their order when they arrive at the store.

Food City is located at 110 N. Industrial Drive and is open Monday through Sunday, from 6 a.m. to midnight. The pharmacy at Food City is open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.