ST. MATTHEWS – Citizens of St. Matthews and Calhoun County Council have one thing in common: replacing the Bi-Lo grocery store that is closing April 16.
Calhoun County Council discussed the future of the building that currently houses the St. Matthews Bi-Lo on Monday night. County Administrator Lee Prickett reported work is being done to replace the St. Matthews Bi-Lo with another grocery store.
“We are trying to encourage a grocery chain to come back to St. Matthews,” Prickett said. “Obviously, it is important for a small, rural community that we have a grocery store.”
Citizens in St. Matthews and surrounding areas will now be forced to drive longer distances to shop. Citizens are expressing their concerns about this, saying they hope the Bi-Lo store will be replaced as soon as possible.
Marie Garvin, a frequent shopper at the St. Matthews Bi-Lo, said, “I think maybe a Piggly Wiggly or a Neighborhood Walmart would be pretty good. This is a pretty nice sized community. I’m pretty sure whoever takes over will have good business.”
Kayla Fricke, another frequent shopper, had similar thoughts.
“I really think they should get another grocery store, a regular grocery store like Piggly Wiggly or IGA” Fricke said.
Prickett said officials are working to persuade retail and commercial developers to locate in St. Matthews. Part of that effort includes a possible commercial development incentive, he said.
“We are trying to see what the feel might be for trying to do some incentives on the commercial side,” Prickett said. “We usually do it on the manufacturing side. It is a little different.”
“We are just trying to get the feel from council to see if they are interested in that. Of course, if they are, we will do whatever we need to do,” he said.
Prickett said the Lower Savannah Council of Governments' rapid response team met with the Bi-Lo employees who will be affected by the store’s closing.
Approximately 40-50 employees have been affected by the closing of the Bi-Lo stores in the region, including the St. Matthews store, he said. Prickett said about 22 St. Matthews Bi-Lo store employees met with the LSCOG officials.
“They will help with job training and job placement,” the administrator said.
Along with the St. Matthews location, the Bi-Lo store located at 3386 E. Railroad Ave. in Bamberg is closing. The closure date of the Bamberg store was not provided by Bi-Lo officials, who would only say all of the affected Bi-Lo stores will close by April 30.