Story By Claire K. Connelly Photography By Jason Hudson
Changes in Food Lion stores are aimed at making food shopping a more enjoyable experience.

For most of us, food shopping is on the must-do list rather than the want-to-do list. Food Lion, a major grocery chain based in Salisbury, N.C., is trying to change that.

Easier and more pleasant food shopping is on its way with their new strategy — “Easy, Fresh and Affordable.” The enhanced program has been initiated in 31 stores within the greater Wilmington area, with future remodels planned for approximately 45 stores in the Greenville area.

Food Lion has made shopping and saving easier with the addition of thousands of new items, including a new gluten-free section. Beef products are now in sealed packages that are freezer-ready, leak-proof and easier to open. New yellow signage allows shoppers to easily find great deals and sale items.

Busy people will welcome the new Daily Dinner Deals in the deli department. Offered from 4 to 7 pm, these meals are easy to pick up on the way home. The deli department now offers many grab-and-go items, including pre-sliced meats and cheeses. Particularly during the busy summer months, this lessens the time waiting in line for products to be sliced and packaged.

The checkout process has been dramatically upgraded with improved technology and added store associates to assist with the bagging process. New blue bags easily identify which products are for refrigeration/freezing, saving time and trouble when you arrive at home and go through the unpacking and storing process.

As part of the new strategy launch, Food Lion has a new logo with a more modern look, keeping the lion and easily recognizable “Food Lion blue.”

Food Lion has long been recognized for its efforts in donating meals to end hunger in local communities. “Food Lion Feeds” has committed to donating 500 million meals by the end of 2020. They also assist local food agencies to help with their work to end hunger locally.

Shopping in Sunset Beach

As for myself, I was personally fascinated rather than annoyed at the remodeling as it progressed week by week in the Sunset Beach store. I was interested in the impetus for the remodeling and how focus areas were determined. I felt like part of the process, getting a close-up look at how and why businesses remodel.

Something else I like about my neighborhood Food Lion is getting to know the people who work there.

Sunset Beach store manager Jeff Melchione has worked for Food Lion for 23 years; in fact, it’s the only job he’s ever had. Growing up, Melchione’s home was near a Food Lion, and he worked there during his high school years. After getting a college degree in business management, he returned to Food Lion, and he strongly states that there has never been a day that he wanted to leave his job.

Married with two children and an avid sports nut — he’s a dedicated Carolina Panthers fan — Melchione has an easy rapport with his associates, many of whom are also long-term employees.

An early morning arrival at the store finds me in the produce section, where Produce Manager Glen Davis is busy organizing his department for the day. A friendly smile, followed by pleasant conversation, is the way Davis greets all of the customers; he’s determined to make them smile or laugh as they move on. Davis’s interest in the business of food started with his parents’ convenience store, where he helped out at an early age. After school, his first job was once again food-store related. He eventually joined the Food Lion family, where he has been for more than 24 years. He became a produce manager not long after joining the company and is also a Regional Lead Trainer.

Davis finds that the best part of his day is the morning, when he is involved in making sure everything is going to look good for the customers of the day. The signature wall/wet wall, as it is referred to, sets the tone for the entire department, and Davis methodically creates a canvas on the wall each day. The end result is always stunning.

The rest of his daily activities include unloading delivery trucks, reviewing computer orders for the next day’s deliveries, checking email for company updates and scheduling labor for the following week. With the able assistance of four employees, it’s all about a team effort for his department and they strive to fulfill the promise of “Count on Me.” Attracting customers to their favorite items or discovering new ones is a focus for Davis and his team. They also have an intense weekly cleaning on the schedule.

Another critical area of Davis’s department is responsibility for the outside items, such as Christmas trees and hanging flower baskets, which require the same intense care as his indoor-department items.

Customers often wonder why changes are made in the produce department and do not realize that the department displays are related to seasons. Summer display tables include fruit items such as peaches and nectarines. Fall features apples, and winter contains citrus crops.

Davis feels that customer comments are critical and finds that there are fewer complaints than sincere compliments from satisfied customers. Davis says he is in a happy and relaxed mood as he completes another day of pleasing customers. I always leave his department feeling good about my day and having enjoyed another positive visit with someone, as with all other employees, who seem like part of my own family.

For me, shopping at my local Food Lion is an interesting example of how companies approach a remodel, the importance of customer input and the results that can make an ongoing, necessary chore a happy one.

My next adventure is finding how to make putting gas in the car a happy “I can’t wait” experience!

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