Early shoppers like new Food Lion

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Una Green, a fan of the former Farm Fresh store off South Hughes Boulevard, shops at what is now Elizabeth City's fourth Food Lion store, Wednesday. Food Lion purchased the former Farm Fresh store and reopened it Wednesday as a Food Lion.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Tanya Stephens-Holly was among the early arrivals who lined up outside the former Elizabeth City Farm Fresh Wednesday morning for its grand reopening as a new Food Lion store.

She also was one of scores of shoppers who entered the store  — Food Lion’s fourth in Elizabeth City — shortly after the doors were unlocked at 7:45 a.m.

What they saw when they entered was a spruced-up supermarket that looked pretty much like the Farm Fresh it replaced, albeit with a few changes.

Ben Gould, Food Lion's operations director for Elizabeth City and the Outer Banks, said the store will carry many of the same items it formerly did as a Farm Fresh. He noted the salad bar and its offering of hand-battered chicken, as well as cut fruits and vegetables.

"We touched up everything," Gould said, referring to Food Lion’s getting the supermarket ready for the reopening. "So, if it needed to be freshened up or touched up, we did it. And we tried to preserve as much (of the former store) as we could."

The new Food Lion won’t have a Starbucks coffee stand, however. Nor will have a branch of Chartway Federal Credit Union. Both were features of the Farm Fresh.

The supermarket has retained its pharmacy, though. In fact, although the store has been closed since April 26, the pharmacy, except for a short time to perform a re-inventory, has remained open.

Asked if Food Lion planned to offer anything different from the former Farm Fresh’s offerings, Gould said “expanded variety.”

"I think customers are going to really enjoy the new selection of variety in items," he said.

For example, the Food Lion offers a larger assortment of wines and sells more organic items and grass-fed meats.

Stephens-Holly, who was browsing items in the produce section, said she likes the look of the new Food Lion store.

"This watermelon here is talking to me," she said, thumping one for emphasis. "It's saying, 'Buy me.' It's giving me a thump back. Do you hear it? Do you hear it?" she said as her sister Wanda stood alongside her.

Una Green, a longtime customer of the former Farm Fresh, said she showed up early Wednesday because she wanted to see what the supermarket looks like now.

"And I like it," Green said. "I like the way it's organized. I don't like to go to unfamiliar stores. And this store looks familiar, even though it's now Food Lion."

Green said she liked the former Farm Fresh because she considered it upscale.

"When I used to come to Farm Fresh, I didn't realize I was in Elizabeth City," she said. "And this seems to be very upscale."

Clyde Pelfrey said he immediately noticed when he entered the store that Food Lion is keeping a lot of the items he likes, such as seafood. Asked if there was anything about the Farm Fresh that he missed, he said with a smile, "You know, as a guy, a store is a store. If it's got what I need, I'm happy."

Gould said the new Food Lion store employs about 115 people. He estimated about 40 of them worked at the former Farm Fresh, another 20 worked at other Food Lion stores and another 55 are new hires.

Not long after the store reopened Wednesday morning, Keith Sanderlin, the supermarket's new manager, gave remarks at a brief ceremony. Also speaking were Mayor Bettie Parker, City Councilors Gabriel Adkins and Anita Hummer and Pasquotank County Commissioner Charles Jordan.

Parker said when she heard Supervalu — the Elizabeth City Farm Fresh’s former owner — decided to sell a number of its stores, including the one here, she "sort of panicked.”

“I said, 'Oh my, there's going to be an empty store,’” she said. “But, as I soon as I saw that Food Lion was going to take its place, I said, 'Way to go!' because I am a Food Lion customer."

The new Food Lion is open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. The store’s phone number is 331-1301. There are two numbers for the pharmacy: 331-1306 and 331-6326.