Chattanooga Deserves Better Grocery Stores

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Have you noticed how there is a lack of good grocery stores in Chattanooga? We are dominated with BI-LO, Wal-Mart Supercenter, and the occasional sparsely placed Food Lion. This is what we are forced to shop at for our grocery needs.

Yes, there is the occasional local market and Greenlife Grocery, which are all wonderful stores to shop in and purchase food products. However, for the more mainstream stores, we are subjected to pitiful choices.

When the South Carolina-based supermarket chain store, BI-LO, bought out the Red Food stores (a longtime icon of Chattanooga history) in Chattanooga in the early 1990s, the changeover was bittersweet. We were losing a great food chain that had been dominated by another up and coming store, yet we were also gaining a new, supposed better store, based in the South and family run. However, this new “grocery shopping phenomenon” for Chattanooga had its peak of glory at the beginning and only went downhill.

I always knew there was something wrong when they had several stores within close proximity to one another (i.e. Fort Oglethorpe and St. Elmo/Tiftonia).

I was overjoyed to know last year that Publix Supermarkets were moving into the Chattanooga area, but, of course, they are located at two opposite ends of town from the South Chattanooga/Lookout Mountain area.

I know I have come to enjoy shopping at Publix stores throughout the South - particularly because of their high quality food and service and striving for excellence. This is what all grocery stores should use as a model.

And it is not as if BI-LO is necessarily a bad store. It is actually not. Their employees and management go above and beyond to make sure that customers’ shopping experiences are pleasant and easy, although this is the case with other stores as well.

Wal-Mart, now in the picture, allows for little competition in the grocery market. The opening of the one in Lookout Valley closed the local BI-LO and could very soon contribute to the closing of the Food Lion on that side of town as well. Wal-Mart has done this other places across the Southeast as well. It is disappointing that we must shop at Wal-Mart because it is the only store available. But I suppose that is just something we must contend with.

With the ever-increasing cultural shifts in American society and the continuing changes that we are subjected to,I believe that our grocery stores should change and adapt with society. We should expect more out of our grocery stores - new and inventive ways to market high quality food at fair prices while still having the same warmth and welcome that our local markets provide.

Matthew Smisson

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