Much of what grocery shoppers will miss about the Piggly Wiggly can't be perfectly calculated.
It's nearly impossible to quantify intangibles such as the security of knowing a manager really will make good on his offer to order a missing item, or the comfort that comes from always seeing the same smiling clerk at the register. But faithful customers mourning the scaling back of the chain are also worried about where they'll find specific foods and drinks.
While many of the following items, old and new, aren't exclusive to The Pig, the store's fans firmly believe that buying them elsewhere just won't feel right.
Created in 1967 by former cafeteria worker Nel McNaughton, this peppery, thick-crusted fried chicken has picked up fans from as far away as Oklahoma. The original recipe still hangs in the Meeting Street store's kitchen.
Piggly Wiggly's private label pilsner and ale debuted in 2011 as the chain tried to capture a larger share of the craft beer market. Brewed by Thomas Creek, the beers have generally pleased online critics, with the ale scoring a respectable “OK” from Beer Advocate. Most importantly, it comes from the Pig.
Slightly less successful than its private label beer, budget-friendly Grace Bridge wines were rolled out in 2009 for $7.99 a bottle. They were intended as good-value sipping that offered “a bridge” between Lowcountry food and California wines. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are made by Brownstone Winery in Lodi, Calif., and the labels display a vintage, sepia-toned photo of the John P. Grace Memorial Bridge, a predecessor of the Ravenel Bridge.
The city's first frozen pizza line is sold at smaller gourmet markets around town, but The Pig was the only major retailer to take a chance on D'Allesandro's hand-tossed, heat-and-eat pies. The St. Philip Street pie shop was opened in 2006 by Philadelphia natives and brothers Nick and Ben D'Allesandro.
Piggly Wiggly's spreadable cheese led off a list of “THE MAIN THINGS I'm worried about disappearing” submitted by reader Jean Louisa Steele, who's been shopping at The Pig for 40 years. The recipe was developed at the Meeting Street Pig many years ago.
“The Mac's Pride peaches are the best I've ever tasted,” reader Kathy Cooley writes of the McLeod Farms product. “ I love the price, too. When they go on sale, I buy lots of them and freeze them for the winter.” The McLeod family has been growing peaches since 1916 on orchards surrounding the small town of McBee, S.C., and now have 650 acres and 22 varieties.
Ask any Charlestonian: hoppin' John is made with rice and field peas, NOT black-eyed peas. Piggly Wiggly, ever attuned to local tastes, creates special displays or fills its aisle endcaps with them at holiday time. On a recent visit, a cashier told us she planned to stock up on the bagged field peas before the store closes.
South Carolina's Blenheim makes a milder ale, but drinkers who make a point of buying their six-packs at The Pig swore by the original recipe's sinus-cleansing sting. What else would you expect from a company that dates to 1903 and is located on the grounds of the famous I-95 pit stop, South of the Border.
Any old grocery can sell canned boiled peanuts, but home cooks who prefer to boil their own batches need the fresh green nuts that Piggly Wiggly makes a point of carrying.
The attentiveness that's a hallmark of the Trappist monastic tradition has led to the order acquiring a green-thumb reputation. Mepkin Abbey, located outside Moncks Corner, is the only U.S. monastery that has applied its growing skills to mushrooms, sold first by The Pig.
Southern food diva and Charleston resident Nathalie Dupree swears by the back shelf of the Meeting Street store's meat case. She's especially taken with the small chickens, sized right for frying, and the turkey necks, which can be served up with such Southern classics as lima beans, collards and gumbo.
When George Bullwinkel closed his Charleston bakery in 1974, the Piggly Wiggly invited the 62-year-old to set up shop in its Meeting Street store. He brought with him a family recipe for three-layer cake made with whipped cream and raspberries. Around Christmas, the now-deceased baker would make more than 1,000 cakes.