BAMBERG – “Piggly Wiggly is coming to Bamberg!”
About 170 Bamberg residents gathered Tuesday afternoon at the Heritage Shopping Center to hear those words from Fogle’s Inc. Vice President Charles "Chuck" Fogle.
After the applause died down, Fogle said, “We have been waiting a long time to say that.”
Remodeling the space at 3386 Railroad Ave. will take about three months, with the store projected to open in February. Orangeburg’s O’Cain Construction will handle the remodeling.
The Piggly Wiggly will employ about 60.
“I promise we are going to try our best on every visit to earn your business,” Fogle said.
The store will have a complete selection of groceries, produce, as well as a deli and a bakery. C&S Wholesale Grocers will be supplying the store.
“That means variety and low prices,” Fogle said.
It won’t be Fogle’s first store in The T&D Region. Fogle’s owns and operates one in Denmark, two in Orangeburg, one in Neeses and one in Columbia.
“We are a locally owned and operated company. We are just right across the river in Neeses. We consider Bamberg home,” Fogle said.
Last year, Bi-Lo closed the city's only grocery store due to a company-wide bankruptcy. An IGA was supposed to fill in the vacant building but the deal never materialized.
Bamberg resident Jamie Brabham said the announcement could be the boost the city needs.
“My concern is and hope is that all of us, the citizens of the community, will support it 100 percent,” Brabham said. “If they don’t have what you need, let them know it. They will get it.”
“I just think it is up to us to take care and support them,” Brabham said. “They came here supporting us and having confidence in us and we should have that in them.”
Bamberg resident and business owner Howard Cooler says he’s had to shop in Orangeburg and Denmark since Bamberg lost its grocery store.
“This will be a relief to have a store one block from my office,” Cooler said.
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Bamberg resident Lois Ann Gough said, “It is just awesome that we are going to get a grocery store. I always patronize Piggly Wiggly. I love it. I just thank God for it.”
The news of the grocery store’s arrival was not the only announcement made Tuesday.
Augusta-based investment company The Vireo Group purchased the entire Heritage Shopping Center property with the intention of investing more than $2 million to upgrade the location. The sale closed Monday.
The Vireo Group Managing Member Clay Boardman said the property will be upgraded and modernized with additional lighting added to create a safe environment.
He said the property will also be pressure washed and repainted, and the signs will be upgraded.
“It is just some love and attention,” Boardman said.
Boardman says there is room to grow.
“We can add on both sides actually,” he said. “Hopefully, we will find somebody that could go behind the Burger King as well. There is some room there for maybe another single tenant like Burger King.”
Bamberg Mayor Nancy Foster said, “I think our Bamberg people will make it their business to make sure you are happy and have made the right decision in investing in Bamberg.”
Boardman related how the company chose Bamberg.
“This was a tired shopping center with the grocery store closed,” which is pretty common for a small town, Boardman said. “Lighting was poor and things have grown over. There has been a little lack of investment here lately.”
“We did our due diligence and then we were able to work out a deal with the Fogle’s to bring Piggly Wiggly back to Bamberg,” Boardman said.
He visited Fogle’s other grocery stores and was impressed with their cleanliness and well-stocked stores. Boardman said investors also met with Southern Carolina Economic Development Alliance President Danny Black and Bamberg County Administrator Joey Preston.
“They were very, very focused on getting a grocery store here. We have had great cooperation here,” Boardman said.
The South Carolina Coordinating Council for Economic Development will provide some infrastructure support to upgrade the shopping center. Officials say the exact amount is still to be determined as the property’s needs still need to be analyzed.
Bamberg County and the city will help with some of the infrastructure needs of the shopping plaza but dollar figures were not provided Tuesday.
“This is truly a good example of a public-private partnership in action right now,” Boardman continued. “I think the city and county will get their money back multiple times over. I hope we get our money back as well.”
Bamberg County Council Vice Chairwoman Sharon Hammond said the store will not only provide the community with a place to shop, but will also serve as a community gathering place.
“I know we all prayed for a grocery store. Well, today our prayers were answered,” Hammond said. “Not only just a grocery store but jobs for people in our community.”
“It is important that we remember to invest in the businesses that invest in us,” said Rep. Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg.
“Today is not a great day because we just have a grocery store. Today is a great day because we have the right grocery store and it will be run by individuals like Mr. Fogle who legitimately care about you and this community,” he said.
Contact the writer: email@example.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.