Originally written November 2016
The closings of Food Lion in January 2012 and the Wal-mart Supercenter in 2016 left Fairfield County and her roughly 23,000 residents with only one major grocery store, the local Bi-Lo. While that remaining resource was and is greatly appreciated, residents often resorted to making the trek to neighboring counties to satisfy their food buying needs. Not only did the everyday person feel the loss of the two stores, local restaurants felt the sting as well, as their options to meet the demands of their diners became more limited. Along with having less variety in grocery shopping options, the county had lost two major employers. Wal-mart alone employed 160 people. To add to that, around two-thirds of Winnsboro’s sales tax came from Wal-mart purchases.
Enter KJ’s IGA. As talk of the grocery store grew from a murmured rumor to the reality of opening day, one could almost feel the county breathe a collective sigh of relief. On last Wednesday, the day we’d all been waiting for finally arrived. Members of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, public offices, and local organizations gathered to celebrate and commemorate the grand opening of Winnsboro’s own KJ’s IGA with its manager, Korey Gaines, as he cut the ribbon and welcomed the stores first patrons.
The store has enjoyed a warm reception from the community since then and it’s no wonder considering the overall atmosphere of the store. According to Gaines, the quality of this store is “equal to or better than many larger chains”. In the IGA family of grocery stores, the KJ’s stores are typically larger, with more variety. For example, the Chester IGA does not have a deli/bakery. While the Blythewood store has one, the new Winnsboro store’s deli/bakery is more expansive.
Barely one week since opening day and already KJ’s IGA has become a favorite for it’s breakfast bar, available from 7-10am, and lunch bar from 11am-7pm. For those who enjoy a variety of fresh veggies, the store offers an expanded produce section with new arrivals three times each week. Gaines boasts that the meats section is “second to none”. It caters to every carnivorous taste from ox tails to ham hocks, to veal and lamb. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, just ask and they will get it for you. All this at our doorsteps, just in time for the holidays.
One of the many welcomed and unexpected modern twists on the grocery store to which we’re all accustomed is, the absence of the belts that carry our carefully chosen items to the cashier for her to scan. Instead, all that’s needed is to push the cart right up to the cashier who takes it from there. Many weary bones will appreciate this luxury we never knew, not having to unload our items onto that belt.
While one cannot be certain of the positive financial impact the store will have on the community in the long run, it has certainly made a dent in the unemployment problem that plagues Fairfield County. During KJ’s IGA’s job fair, hosted in early October, over 200 people showed up and in that one day, the entire store was staffed. That day, roughly 80 people were hired from the community. If this is any indication of what we can look forward to in terms of KJ’s IGA’s benefit to the community, it looks like they’re off to a fantastic start.
KJ’s IGA is a bit different from our neighboring IGA stores. As Gaines explained, the KJ portion of the name bears the initials of IGA executives, Heyward King (Mr. K) and Henry Johnson (Mr. J). Their organization operates IGA’s throughout the Carolinas and Georgia. Headquartered in Lake City, SC, theirs is the largest grocery chain headquartered in the state. As such, the commitment of KJ’s IGA to the community is both a service and an honor. Gaines says of the company’s decision to open a store in Winnsboro, “the company heard the outcry, recognized there was a need in this community, and was willing to make the multi-million dollar investment in this community”. Gaines, a resident of Columbia, is excited to have been chosen to help, in his words, “deliver you one of the best stores you’ve ever had in this community”.