Even with 81 stores and about 9,000 employees, Winston-Salem-based Lowes Food is a fraction of the size of N.C. rivals Publix, Food Lion and Harris Teeter, which is owned by industry giant Kroger. Lowes has to stand out to beompetitive.
Its new 25,000-square-foot store in Huntersville in north Mecklenburg County qualifies as a trailblazer with a variety of new technology and innovative ways of presenting food that combines features of restaurants, food halls, brewpubs and a traditional supermarket. It opened Friday.
Lowes President Tim Lowe showed the media around the store, describing it as an intersection of food and entertainment. Lowes has developed about 20 concepts for its stores such as The Cakery for desserts, SausageWorks for grilling fans and a Daily Deli for sandwich lovers. The Huntersville site includes six such concepts, plus space for dining and music performances.
There’s an obvious appeal to meat lovers with large cases displaying cold cuts and large hunks of elite-quality beef, along with a huge array of salads and other ready-to-serve foods prepared in an open kitchen. Tech-savvy shoppers may be impressed with “Scan*Pay*Go” technology that enables them to log purchases into an app while shopping, speeding the checkout process.
Lowe emphasized his company’s North Carolina roots as a competitive advantage. Lowes is owned by Alex Lee Inc., a Hickory-based food distribution company owned by the George family. It is among the state’s biggest private concerns.
“People want to spend money that stays in the communities where they live and work,” Lowe says. “Our headquarters isn’t in Florida or Cincinnati or overseas,” referring to the ownership of Public, Kroger and Food Lion, respectively.
Ironically, the Huntersville site formerly housed a grocery run by Asheville-based EarthFare, which operated as many as 50 stores at its peak. It filed for bankruptcy protection in early 2020 and now operates about 20 stores, mostly in the Southeast.