MOUNT PLEASANT -- Food Lion shoppers at three local stores were greeted with "going out of business" signs Thursday, as the supermarket chain announced plans to close 126 stores nationwide, eliminating thousands of jobs.
In Mount Pleasant, where there has been fierce competition among 18 grocery stores, Food Lion is throwing in the towel, closing its two remaining East Cooper locations.
One Food Lion in Moncks Corner also will close.
Linda Jackson, of Awendaw, said she will miss the Food Lion in Mount Pleasant, where she regularly shops, near the Charleston National subdivision.
"I'm kind of attached to it," she said. "It's just convenient all the way around."
It also is a stone's throw from a rival Publix, just across U.S. Highway 17 in the Park West subdivision. The second Mount Pleasant Food Lion anchors the Belle Station shopping center, across Longpoint Road from a rival Harris Teeter.
Hoyt Rowell, manager of HobbyTown USA in Belle Station, said he will miss the convenience of being able to walk to the Food Lion for snacks, and the store's absence also could be bad news for smaller businesses in the shopping center.
"It's always nice to have the shopping center full, because people who go (to Food Lion) may realize that we are here," he said.
Another Mount Pleasant Food Lion, off Coleman Boulevard in Brookgreen Town Center, was closed in 2010 and remains vacant.
Food Lion spokeswoman Tenisha Waldo said in July that the company was "pleased with the performance of our two stores in Mount Pleasant as well as our 26 locations throughout the greater Charleston region."
Those same stores were described as "underperforming" in the closure announcement.
Food Lion has been the Charleston area's largest grocery chain, but has struggled in Mount Pleasant as rivals Harris Teeter, Bi-Lo, Publix, Piggly Wiggly, Walmart, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's opened new stores there.
The competitiveness of the Mount Pleasant grocery business is evidenced by discounts only offered there, such as the $10-off coupons Harris Teeter has been including in Mount Pleasant editions of The Post and Courier every Wednesday since early last year.
In Moncks Corner, Food Lion will close its store at U.S. Highway 52 and the U.S. 52 Bypass, but will continue to operate a Food Lion two miles away on North Highway 52.
Parent company Delhaize America said the nationwide closures, representing 8 percent of the company's stores, will eliminate an estimated 4,900 jobs, an average of 39 jobs for each closure. The company said it would provide severance payments to eligible employees.
"Today's actions will continue to solidify our U.S. operations and enable our company to focus on our successful brand strategy repositioning at Food Lion and the expansion of Bottom Dollar Food in new markets," said Ron Hodge, CEO of Delhaize America.
"While these were difficult decisions given the impact on our associates, customers and communities, we believe these actions will enable us to better serve our customers in our markets with high density, while positioning the company for future growth," he said.
The stores slated for closing will shut down within 30 days. Notices posted at the stores Thursday said they will begin a 25-percent-off clearance sale on Jan. 18.
The Food Lion closures will make Piggly Wiggly the Charleston area's largest grocery chain, with 20 locations. Food Lion previously had 21.