Grocery store operator Bi-Lo plans to introduce its Super Bi-Lo format to the Charleston region next fall as part of a broader plan to overhaul most of its local supermarkets.
The area's first 24-hour, "one-stop" supermarkets will be in Hanahan and on James Island, said Brian Hotarek, Bi-Lo's president and chief executive.
The Mauldin-based chain opened its first Super Bi-Lo in June near Greenville and has added five similar stores in the Upstate. The new layout is not necessarily bigger than a conventional Bi-Lo, but it features updated designs, wider product selection and full-service deli, bakery, meat and seafood departments.
Among the expanded offerings are more organic products in the produce section, more seafood variety, fresh sushi and certified Angus beef in the meat department. Other potential amenities include a wireless Internet cafe and a health clinic staffed by nurse practitioners who can diagnose and treat common illnesses.
During a stop in Charleston on Wednesday, Hotarek called the Super Bi-Lo c oncept "evolutionary," largely because it was based on employee suggestions and customer requests.
"We're adapting to the needs and wants of the busy consumer and changing lifestyles," he said during a rainy ground-breaking ceremony at the James Island Bi-Lo store at 850 Folly Road.
All new Bi-Lo stores will be built under the new format, he said.
Locally, the grocery chain plans to replace its 18-year-old James Island store with a 63,000-square-foot Super Bi-Lo. It will be built next door on the site of a shuttered Kmart, which will be razed. Bi-Lo's current building will be reno- vated or demolished to make way for other businesses, Hotarek said.
In Hanahan, the company is planning a 48,000-square-foot Super Bi-Lo in a fast-growing area near Tanner Ford Boulevard and North Rhett Avenue.
The new stores will employ about 100 people each, compared with about 50 to 80 employees in a traditional Bi-Lo.
The projects announced Wednesday are part of a $40 million improvement plan to overhaul most of the company's 14 Charleston-area stores, by either remodeling them or converting them to the new format, by 2010. Three locations in Mount Pleasant and another in Goose Creek are among those to be transformed into Super Bi-Lo stores, Hotarek said.
Also, the company is constantly seeking out new supermarket sites in the Charleston region, he added.
Bi-Lo operates almost 230 stores in the Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee and employs about 17,000 workers. It has operated in the Charleston area for about 30 years.
In April, Bi-Lo's owner, Lone Star Funds, put the grocery store chain on the market. Since then there has been a lot of interest in the company, Lone Star spokesman Ed Trissel said Wednesday.
But the Dallas-based investment firm does not anticipate a sale in the near future, given the uncertainties in the financial markets, he said. In the meantime, Lone Star is focused on helping Bi-Lo achieve its long-term strategies, Trissel said.
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