By STEVEN NALLEY
The Starkville Piggly Wiggly’s pharmacy closed June 28 as part of its sale, along with 56 other grocery stores throughout the region, to a different grocery store chain.
Belle Foods bought Southern Family Market’s 57 stores in a process which began in February and was finalized June 30, Jonathan Harris, a marketing official with Belle Foods, said. In the past, the store has borne many names, starting as Foodmax and then becoming Southern Family Market before becoming Piggly Wiggly. Soon, Harris said, the store will bear Belle Foods’ name.
“Currently the 57 stores involved in the sale are under several different banners, including Piggly Wiggly, Southern Family Markets, Bruno’s and Food World in (Mississippi), Alabama, Florida and Georgia,” Harris said. “Moving forward, all of the stores will be unified under the Belle Foods name. The changeover is not set in stone, but we would love to have the name changed by the first home football game.”
Harris said the decision to close Southern Family Market’s pharmacies was made before Belle Foods purchased the stores. This decision only affects 16 of the stores, he said, and Belle Foods plans to alleviate the transition for both employees and customers.
“There should be little or no changes in employment in the main store,” Harris said. “Our goal is to fold those (pharmacy) employees affected into the main store.”
Starkville Piggly Wiggly manager Max Stillman said Harris’ plan was not far off. While not everyone from the pharmacy has been folded back into Piggly Wiggly, he said the pharmacy’s closure has not left its employees jobless.
“Everyone has jobs that worked over there (in the pharmacy,)” Stillman said. “CVS actually hired all three of our (pharmacy) technicians. They were really good people ... very good pharmacists.”
Piggly Wiggly has also forwarded its prescriptions to CVS. Calls to CVS’s automated response system now feature options for customers making the transition.
Harris said the Starkville store has many positive assets, and Belle Foods hopes to build on them by building community connections and improving experiences for shoppers. He said Belle Foods was created specifically to buy the Southern Family Market chain.
“C&S Distributors, the largest wholesale grocery distributor in the United States, purchased the chain in 2007,” Harris said. “C&S’s only goal was to keep the chain going until a suitable buyer could be found. This sale is the culmination of a program to save the stores which was started back in 2009.”