The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

July 31, 2013

Starkville's Piggly Wiggly future unclear

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Belle Foods officials describe the company's grocery in Starkville as one of the strongest in the company's chain, thanks to its proximity to Mississippi State University.

Birmingham, Ala.-based Belle Foods filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this month that will affect its 57 stores in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, including Starkville's Piggly Wiggly. The Starkville store is among those being sold.

"My job right now is to keep product on the shelves," Belle spokesman Brad Jorgensen tells the Starkville Daily News (http://bit.ly/18P9J3p).

"We're working diligently to do that so the stores will be sold as working stores and not just empty buildings."

Jorgensen described Starkville's Piggly Wiggly as a "good-size" store with "very unique characteristics."

Even if Starkville's Piggly Wiggly fell into different hands, Jorgensen said the possibility of it shutting down is "remote." He said the store shouldn't see an interruption in service in the meantime, nor did he expect its more than 70 employees to be largely affected.

"The way we foresee this happening is the store would keep on going like it is," he said. "It may just change the name on the front, if that. That's the ultimate goal, whether it's us or someone else who owns it."

Formerly Food Max, Starkville's Piggly Wiggly has changed hands and names twice since 2005, going to Southern Family Market in 2005 and changing to Piggly Wiggly in 2009. Belle Foods bought the store in 2012 and kept the name.

Greater Starkville Development Partnership CEO Jennifer Gregory said Piggly Wiggly's proximity to the university, as well as residential growth in east Starkville, positions it well in the local market.

"This is definitely an opportunity for a new brand to establish a commitment to the business community here, as well as develop customer loyalty," Gregory said.

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