Spirit of Rowan 2022: Food Lion started as a ‘small grocery store’ in Salisbury – Reuters
SALISBURY — Philanthropist Ronnie Smith says there’s no way his father Wilson and fellow Food Lion founders Ralph and Brown Ketner could have known their “little shop” in Salisbury would have the impact it has today.
“They never dreamed it would become ‘one of the largest, most successful, fastest growing grocery chains in the country,'” Smith said. store. Maybe we will have two.
All three founders had a history of working in the grocery business. The trio worked in Glenn Ketner’s grocery stores until they were merged with more than a dozen Piggly Wiggly stores in eastern North Carolina, then sold to Winn-Dixie in 1956. The trio used the synergy between them to put together half of the $125,000 needed to start their own grocery chain comparable to the Winn-Dixie chain.
The other half were raised and put up by members of the community, which included teachers, bankers, doctors, postmen and factory workers. Then, on a freezing day in December 1957, they opened the first 15,000 square foot Food Town store in West Salisbury. A second location was opened a year later to survive the price war between other Salisbury grocery stores.
A decade later, Food Town opened more than a dozen stores and closed or sold nearly 10. But Ketner, then president of the company, decided to bank on a new concept that defined the channel and its culture ever since. : offering the lowest food prices in North Carolina.
“I’d rather make five quick pennies than a slow nickel,” Ketner said years after he hit his bet.
In 1983, the store’s name was changed to Food Lion in order to expand to states where Food Town already existed. By the early 1990s, the chain had grown to 800 stores, outpacing the growth rates of other retail giants such as Walmart and Winn Dixie and placing it among the top 10 grocery chains nationwide. Today, the chain operates more than 1,000 stores in 10 states in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.
In 1974, Delhaize Group, based in Belgium, acquired Food Lion. In 2016, Delhaize Group and Dutch company Ahold merged to form Ahold Delhaize, the conglomerate that today owns and operates Food Lion.
But Food Lion’s reach extends beyond the food industry. When you think of Food Lion, you might also think of Catawba College and Rowan Regional Medical Center, Smith says. The Smith Family Foundation, founded by Wilson Smith, contributed millions of dollars to a fundraising campaign that ended in 2008 to improve the hospital. Additionally, philanthropic families such as the Hurleys have used Food Lion stock to fund campaigns for Catawba College, a private university.
Food Lion’s charitable efforts over the past few years have focused on programs and initiatives to address food insecurity. Each year, Food Lion contributes to local charities, such as Rowan County United Way and Rowan Helping Ministries, as well as larger programs such as the American Red Cross and Children’s Miracle Network. Since 2000, he has partnered with Feeding America to reduce food waste and donate hundreds of millions of meals to local communities. The Food Lion Feeds Charitable Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 2001, has supported more than $10 million in hunger relief initiatives, primarily targeting at-risk children and feeding agencies.
“And it all started right here in Salisbury, North Carolina,” Smith said.