Community not ready to see Piggly Wiggly close

jenkins_store closing

ALEXANDER CAIN :::

The Griffin Piggly Wiggly store may be closing its doors, but the memories and the appreciation of what the business meant to the community will remain.

That’s the opinion of store manager James Jenkins, who has been working in the grocery store industry for more than 40 years. Jenkins has been working for what is currently the Piggly Wiggly name since 1994. He’s seen the Griffin store change owners and names many times over the past 20 years.

“What really stands out about our store in Griffin is that everyone has supported this store over the years. It’s a family feeling,” Jenkins said in a recent interview with The Grip.

Belle Foods, the company that owned Piggly Wiggly, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 1. The Griffin Piggly Wiggly store was bid on along with 43 other stores operated by Belle Foods at a closed auction as part of the bankruptcy proceedings. The new owners made a decision to close the Griffin store and an additional Piggly Wiggly store in Athens.

A plane crashed into the former Piggly Wiggly building in April 1997 shortly after the store vacated and moved to its current location, resulting in the destruction of the vacant building and the death of both the pilot and co-pilot.

“It was an empty building at the time, but people still remember that as being the Piggly Wiggly store,” Jenkins said.

Despite the tragic loss of 1997 and many name changes and different owners over the years, customers still shop at the Griffin Piggly Wiggly – and they’re not shy about giving their reasons for why.

“I come here all the time. For one, it’s Mr. Jenkins; two, it’s convenient. This is where we always shop. It’s a small grocery store, not overwhelming and the manager will even take your groceries out to your car for you. He supports this community and we support him and the store. It’s really, really sad that it’s closing,” Tina Thomas, who lives only a few blocks away from the Piggly Wiggly store, said after a recent shopping trip.

Once an announcement was made of the closure, Jenkins quickly began to hear comments of support and gratitude from people like Tina Thomas.

“The customers walk in the door smiling at us. We have people who come from Spalding, Pike and other counties just to shop here. We do it not as a job, but because we care about the consumer. We have had a job because of our loyal customers that have gone through multiple buyouts and name changes. I feel we need to give back to the community. I’ve wanted to return to the community a small portion of what the customers have given to us as a business,” Jenkins stated.

Local support of the Piggly Wiggly has even made it onto social media and the Internet. A Facebook group called “Save Griffin Piggly Wiggly” encourages those who visit the site to write a letter to the company owners.

“I cannot believe they are closing. That was my first job and I worked there almost four years and made a lot of good friends there. I will definitely miss the store and am very sorry to everyone affected by them closing,” Facebook user Tiffany Smith posted.

Jenkins has been working with local residents willing to write, email or phone the Piggly Wiggly owners or the landlords of the shopping center where the grocery store is located. Although he always appreciates hearing support, he also has accepted the reality of the closure of the business.

“For the most part, it’s the location and the atmosphere. People say that they like it because of the employees generate the family friendly environment that we provide,” Jenkins said. “Originally, this was supposed to have been a Food Lion, but they backed out of the lease. At this moment, no one has come behind us to fill the location that we are aware. We are also working with other grocery stores in town and the Georgia Department of Labor to help our current employees find other work in the area.”

Nan Carley lives in Griffin and has shopped at the Piggly Wiggly for as long as she can remember.

“They have the best meat in town and it’s the convenience of location. This neighborhood needs a smaller grocery store than the bigger mega stores, and there are so many people in this area. The other stores are beautiful but they are so big. I hope that somebody comes in and takes over for Piggly Wiggly. Mr. Jenkins has done more for this community than people know about. I went home and cried when I saw how vacant this shopping center is now,” Carley said.

Carley recently stopped by the Piggly Wiggly just to talk to Jenkins about her thoughts on the closure of the store. It has become a part of Jenkins’ daily routine in recent weeks to greet customers and speak to them for a few moments after groceries are bagged and receipts printed from the crash register.

“It’s always been a competitive field because of ads and other things, but people tell me that they love the store. We have a relationship with our customers and the community. This has been a part of my life, and it will be a huge loss. I’m friends with many of the people who have come to shop here,” Jenkins said. “For some people, this is the only place where they will shop.” Ω

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