Food Fight: Midlands grocery store scene is in transition

(Source: WIS)
(Source: WIS)
Updated: Jun. 16, 2017 at 6:02 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - These are the final days for a familiar presence in Irmo's West Friarsgate Shopping Center.

The Bi-Lo store on North Woodrow Street has slashed prices by 75 percent on remaining inventory and is about to close for good.

Much to the regret of locals like Bill Metcalf.

"It's a loss to the community because it's so convenient," said Metcalf. "You know, you could be in and out in ten minutes and back home. It takes that away. We're just hoping somebody else reopens the store."

The Irmo Bi-Lo is one of the chain's latest outlets to fold up shop. A Forest Drive location shut down last October and others have disappeared in Orangeburg, Florence and Boiling Springs.

But it's not just Bi-Lo. There was the Piggly Wiggly on West Beltline last year, as that chain continued to vanish from South Carolina.

On the way in, new names including North Carolina-based Lowes Foods. One under construction on Highway 378 in Lexington, a second a few miles away on Augusta Highway already open.

Near the Lowes on 378, the old JT's car dealership has been demolished. To be replaced by one of the first U-S outlets for the massive German-owned Lidl chain.

A no-frills discounter offering modern stores, mostly private label products and often unconventional sales on non-food items like shoes and inflatable kayaks.

Close by and not to be outdone, workers are renovating an existing Aldi store. Another low price German food giant in the process of updating and opening hundreds of stores nationwide.

Most of the new chains put significant emphasis on fresh, organic foods. Shopper Karen Warlick says that seems to be what people want now.

"I think they're targeting, I think the society is getting a little bit more health food conscious," Warlick said. "I think like the Lowes, some of these specialty stores, I think they're trying to target that."

Other food sellers are trying to keep up. Walmart for instance, taking orders online for quick pickup in the parking lot.

That service requires a crew of personal shoppers, trained so they know how to select the most appealing examples of items like meat and produce.

Metcalf says that still won't work for his family.
"No. No. Not me," Metcalf said. "My wife would kill me. No way. The meat's got to be examined. But 90 percent of the basic stuff, sure. Why not? Come to the door and it's there. I'd be all about that."

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