Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018 is now etched in Food Lion’s history. For it was on this date that the company celebrated its $168 million investment into 105 greater Norfolk-area stores with hundreds of customers.
All week customers have engaged with the brand at a food distribution giveaway at General Stanford Elementary School located on Ft. Eustis in Newport News, Va. Followed by a press conference on Tuesday where media, customers and associates got to hear Food Lion President Meg Ham and local food bank leaders talk about how they partnered together to provide “fresh” foods to families facing hunger insecurity.
Then finally on Wednesday, throngs of customers lined up at all105 stores to receive gift cards valued between $10 and $250.
In Norfolk, customers were anxiously awaiting the grand re-opening of their Food Lion store on East Little Creek Road in Wednesday morning as Store Manager Shane Oakey stepped up to the podium to welcome everyone.
Food Lion noisemakers in hand, customers cheered when they heard about the improvements to their store, like the hand-battered buttermilk fried chicken and increased selection of fresh, local produce. Once the ribbon was cut, customers piled into the store so they could see for themselves all the enhancements Shane had talked about.
“I actually pass two other stores just to shop at this Food Lion and I love the new look!” said customer Keena Tyre.
Meanwhile at a Virginia Beach store, which is only about a mile from the resort area of Sandbridge Beach the grand reopening was all about the locals. A group of dedicated local shoppers, several of whom shop in the store a few times a week and know the associates by name, waited patiently in line for the ribbon to be cut so they could walk through the doors of “their” new Food Lion.
Virginia Beach City Councilwoman Barbara Hendley joined Store Manager James Bowman to cut the ribbon. And she was among those locals anxious to enter the store.
“Food Lion is a great community partner that has done a lot for Virginia Beach and the region, including creating the 4,000 new jobs through this remodel,” Hendley said. “But this is my Food Lion. I shop here at this store, and I am thrilled by the changes you’ve made,” she said.
At the mention of “her” store, associates broke out in raucous applause, cheering and ringing bells.
Hendley also noted the impact that Food Lion Feeds has on local feeding agencies’ ability to help those in need, like Star of the Sea Catholic Church and the Catholic Church of St. Marks, which both received donations at this morning’s ribbon cutting event.
Following the brief ceremony, customers grabbed their baskets and headed inside, remarking to the Food Lion team how much they love the expanded product assortment, the organization of the store, and the faster checkout. Said one customer, I just love everything about this store. You all have done a great job here!”
And yes, Councilwoman Hendley grabbed a basket as well whispering, “I have a few things I need to pick up,” before heading inside and stopping at the fresh produce.
Just a few miles away at another Virginia Beach store located on Salem Lakes Boulevard more than 70 customers lined up not for a sale, but to celebrate the renovations at their new Food Lion.
“These improvements are just awesome,” one man said.
It took less than an hour for associates to distribute Food Lion gift cards and thermal tote bags to the first 100 customers. All listened to store manager Adam Massie talk about how hard he and his associates worked during the last nine months to ensure service was seamless during store construction.
“My nana and I have been coming to this grocery store since I was a child and we are just so excited about the renovations,” said Delegate Kelly Convirs-Fowler. She shopped with her grandmother as a child years ago and that tradition continued Wednesday as she now is an adult.
“Food Lion is part of our family,” her grandmother said. “I come here almost every day to do my daily shopping and to speak to some of the employees who still work here when I first started shopping here.”
In Suffolk, dozens of customers lined up to be a part of the grand opening of their newly remodeled local Food Lion store. Customers were excited to see the new changes in their store and we thrilled about to receive $10 gift cards and a free insulated Food Lion shopping bag.
Store Manager Joey Brewer welcomed the crowd of customers and local dignitaries and introduced them to many of the new changes they could expect to see, including the easy-to-navigate store layout, product expansion and how bright and clean the new stores are. Brewer also called out his team of associates for their hard work getting the store ready while still providing a personal shopping experience their customers.
As part of the celebration, Brewer presented Suffolk Christian Fellowship Center food pantry and Capernaum SDA Church pantry with donations of $2,000 each to help feed hungry families in the Chesterfield Community.
Next, Brewer introduced local dignitaries who praised the new store.
"When you look at shopping centers like this, stores like Food Lion are considered anchor stores” said Council member, Mike Duman, “but I believe Food Lion is more than that. It’s an anchor store for this community.”
Finally, it was time to cut the ribbon and welcome customers to their new store. Longtime customer Elizabeth Russell was asked to help cut the ribbon. Mrs. Russell visits the store at least four times a week and has been shopping here since the store first opened and doesn’t go to any other stores for groceries. When asked why she is so loyal to Food Lion, Russell said, "I love the employees. They are so kind and helpful and do whatever they need to help a customer.” Russell went on to say, “This really is the home town store.”
To close out the ceremony, the Kings Fork Mighty March Bulldogs drumline performed for the crowds as they entered the store.
Although most of the celebrations happened at Food Lion stores in Virginia there were a few in cities like Elizabeth City that happened in North Carolina. Store associates at 1313 N. Road St., seemed excited to hand out fans, noise makers and sales ads to customers who waited in line for the event.
Local dignitaries made a strong showing with County Commissioners Cecil Perry distinguishing Food Lion as “a different type of store” when compared to others.
“There is just a family feeling inside Food Lion stores,” he said.
In Yorktown, Va., an excited group of associates, customers and community leaders joined Mike Vadnais, store manager at the Food Lion at 2900-K Hampton Highway in Yorktown, Va., to cut the ribbon and reintroduce the newly-remodeled store.
Sheila Noll, Chairman, Board of Supervisors, York County, addressed the crowd saying, “You’ve made a big investment in our county and I want to thank you for this investment for our citizens as well.”
As customers flowed in and out of the store and explored aisle to aisle, the positive responses were overwhelming. From the delicious hand-battered buttermilk fried chicken, to the walk-in garden cooler and bins full of fresh local produce, the newly-renovated store offers something for everything.
“Every change we’ve made was done with our customers in mind, and we’re excited for them to experience the updates,” added Vadnais.
Finally, Newport News, Va., customers lined around the building beginning at 6 a.m. One customer, Aileen Jackson said, “I use to shop at Food Lion because it was so close, but now I shop there because it is so good. The people are so friendly and talk to everyone.”
Six local dignitaries attended the celebration and helped to cut the ribbon. Thrive, a local feeding agency, had three representatives on hand to accept their gift of $2,000.