Piggly Wiggly to shut down Lowcountry warehouses

Once a signature Charleston company, Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. has now nearly erased its footprint in the Lowcountry.

Two months after selling the majority of its tri-county stores to Bi-Lo and Harris Teeter, the grocery company announced it will shut down its warehouse in North Charleston and the 612,000-square-foot distribution center in Jedberg near Summerville.

Many if not all of the employees of those facilities will be laid off, but it was not immediately disclosed how many employees will be affected.

Piggly Wiggly has partnered with New Hampshire-based C&S Wholesale Grocers to supply groceries to its remaining stores. The transition from the locally based distribution will be completed in about three to four months, said spokesman Christopher Ibsen.

“This change will not affect the products offered in Piggly Wiggly stores or affect our customers in any way,” Ibsen wrote in an emailed statement.

Affected employees have been given a 60-day notice of the shutdown, but it wasn’t disclosed exactly when notice was given.

Ibsen said employees have been offered assistance finding new employment, such as on-site job interview days with outside companies and resume workshops. The company will also offer severance packages to “the vast majority” of affected employees, Ibsen said.

Piggly Wiggly sold 29 of its stores, including more than half of those in the Lowcountry, to Bi-Lo and Harris Teeter in October. Harris Teeter picked up seven in the Charleston area for an undisclosed price. Bi-Lo acquired 22, which includes five locally, for about $35 million.

The company offered vague clues during that sell-off that its warehouses were also on the Pig’s chopping block.

In September, Ibsen said it was too early to comment on whether they would close the warehouses but that Piggly Wiggly was “in the process of working on a new distribution model.”

In 2010, the company sold the distribution center near Summerville for $28 million to a real estate investment company and leased it back as a measure to free up capital.

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail

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