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Piggly Wiggly opened the city's first supermarket in 1919, but at that time, the chain lasted only 10 years.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
The pig is back.
Piggly Wiggly, the first supermarket to open in Roanoke in 1919, is returning to the valley.
The Super Save IGA on Riverland Road in southeast Roanoke will change over to Piggly Wiggly in about two weeks, said Chad Burdette, who runs the store with his wife, Dawn.
“We’re thinking of it as a fresh start,” Burdette said.
The Burdettes applied to become an independent grocer under Piggly Wiggly and received approval a few weeks ago, Burdette said.
Piggly Wiggly’s corporate office in Keene, N.H., did not return calls on Tuesday.
Sales at the IGA have suffered the past two years as a roundabout was under construction outside the store at the Riverland Road, Mount Pleasant Boulevard and Bennington Street intersection.
As part of the $8.4 million project, a traffic light at the entrance of the grocery store’s parking lot was taken down and traffic can only enter the parking lot from one direction. Burdette said that is keeping shoppers away.
He believes changing over to a Piggly Wiggly will help increase sales by drawing a wider range of shoppers.
“I hope it is going to do good for us,” Burdette said. “People who travel to Myrtle Beach know Piggly Wiggly and know the product.”
The store will be repainted with Piggly Wiggly colors, and pig decor and new signs will be hung on the walls. New lighted signs will be installed outside the store, including one that will say “Dig the Pig.”
A grand opening is scheduled for July 31.
Piggly Wiggly is the first new grocery store to enter the market — largely dominated by Kroger and Food Lion — since Ukrops opened in 2007. Ukrops closed in 2009, citing poor sales.
Piggly Wiggly was the first supermarket to open in Roanoke, according to Roanoke Times archives. It opened on Market Square in 1919. Kroger bought the area’s Piggly Wiggly stores in 1929, according to “A History of Roanoke” by Raymond Barnes.
Piggly Wiggly first opened in 1916 in Memphis, Tenn., and claims to be the first grocery store that allowed shoppers to pick items from shelves instead of handing a shopping list to a clerk who gathered the items from behind a counter. The company also purports to be the first retailer to use the high volume, low profit margin sales strategy.
A Roanoke Times story about the 1919 opening of Piggly Wiggly reported that shoppers crowded the store and bought items by the pound.
“Roanokers are not accustomed to buying string beans, corn and other fresh vegetables by avoirdupois measurement,” the story said.
Today, more than 750 independently owned and operated Piggly Wiggly stores operate in 18 states, according to its website. Danville and Emporia are the only other Virginia localities with Piggly Wiggly stores, the website
Staff researcher Belinda Harris contributed to this report.
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