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Watch now -- UNSUNG HEROES: Piggly Wiggly employees maintain meat supply
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Watch now -- UNSUNG HEROES: Piggly Wiggly employees maintain meat supply

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The customer is always right. During the ongoing pandemic, Fogle’s Piggly Wiggly stores have worked to keep their customers as the number one priority.

Jay Cox, store manager of the Columbia Road Piggly Wiggly, said the store’s meat department has really stepped up its game and shined throughout.

Donnie Howard, meat department manager, said they worked as hard as they could to keep the public fed, including the entire crew going on night shifts.

“To keep everybody safe and the meat safe, we would get it in the daytime, and they would work all night,” Howard said.

William Kirkland, recently promoted to a manager position, said, “It was super high stress to begin with.”

He said there were times that they would end up working 60-plus hours.

Additionally, with the virus being new and virtually unknown, worries were packed on as they continued to push through to keep providing for the public.

Soon, shortages of meat became an issue, so the team started placing orders in advance to match the demand.

Kirkland said they would order “almost three days out just to try to get whatever we could for the community.”

“We jumped through hoops to make sure we were able to buy enough meat to keep us in business,” Howard said.

With the customers constantly showing their appreciation and understanding, Kirkland said it boosted morale.

“There’s people that aren’t happy with some things, but that’s anywhere and any field that you’re in,” he said. “I’d say 95 percent of the people that came through the door, no matter the age, ethnicity, background, where they are in the social ladder or financial ladder, they were appreciative and we appreciate that.”

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“We can cut as much meat as we want, put as much meat in that counter, but if no customers come, you’re just spinning your wheels,” he added.

Sure enough, the customers came, and the store was known as one that still had the products customers were looking for.

Howard said customers soon started travelling from outside Orangeburg.

“All these surrounding areas, our customers are calling their family, their friends and bringing them in,” Howard said. “It makes you feel really good when your local customers are calling their friends and family in Charleston, Summerville, Columbia and Lexington.”

The store was even getting people driving hours from North Carolina.

“We couldn’t have any of this without our customers,” Kirkland said. “We try to make them number one, and with all this going on, we’ve kind of quit with some of the hands-on things we were doing.”

“We’re ready to get back to that so we can take care of the community the way we’re used to,” he said.

Howard said they had to pull back on some of the special cuts of meat to ensure they had enough of everything else, but they look to provide even more options when they can.

Both hope for feedback from the community who hope to see other kinds of meat as well and they will try to provide it.

They’ve added meats such as goat, rabbit, crawfish and crawfish tails to accommodate cultures where a different meat is a staple in their diets.

“If it can sustain the business, we’ll try everything in our power to take care of what they want,” Howard said.

“We try not to be just another grocery store, we want to be the best,” Kirkland said.

Fogle’s Inc. operates two stores in Orangeburg, one in Denmark, one in Bamberg, one in Neeses and one in Columbia.

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