New Piggly Wiggly, shopping center on the way in Columbus

tadams@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 13, 2014 

Mike Haskey/mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.comA shopper leaves the Piggly Wiggly at 5600 Milgen Road in Columbus Thursday morning.

MIKE HASKEY — mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com Buy Photo

The Piggly Wiggly presence in the Columbus market is about to get bigger, with a new store set to anchor a shopping center being built at 2424 Woodruff Farm Road, near the intersection of Forrest Road.

Phenix City-based JTM Corp., which has owned and operated the Piggly Wiggly supermarkets locally since 1966, has just begun work on the project, which comes with a price tag of $4.85 million for the construction alone, according to city building permits.

Keith Milligan, financial controller for JTM, a family-owned business started in 1966 by his father, Tommy, said it should take roughly 14 months to finish the store and shopping center. That would peg the opening to around late summer 2015.

"We've been trying to get that location (for) about 20 years," said Milligan, explaining JTM purchased the nearly 9-acre property two years ago from a church that had planned to build there but decided otherwise. It was mostly woods, with four houses on the Forrest Road side.

"The property used to be owned by the A&P company," he said of the iconic supermarket chain that was once one of the largest in the U.S. before beginning a steady decline in the 1970s because of outdated stores.

"A&P had a small store that was right down the street from that location and they had purchased the land to build another store on," Milligan said. "Then the market changed for them and they pulled out altogether."

The new Piggly Wiggly store will be 35,763 square feet, with retail space on each side -- one with a total of 10,713 square feet and the other with 8,400 square feet. A variety of tenants are possible for the center, which will have 220 parking spaces.

"Our other shopping centers have restaurants and banks and barber shops and a laundromat," said Milligan, acknowledging a small piece of land at the corner of Woodruff Farm and Forrest roads might be purchased from the Georgia Department of Transportation, which could be used for a stand-alone outparcel business.

A city traffic analysis from JTM's 2012 rezoning request showed nearly 5,600 vehicles passing that property each day. It projected the supermarket and shopping center will likely raise that to about 10,200 vehicles per day.

Milligan said no decision has been made on whether or not the Piggly Wiggly store at 5600 Milgen Road could be closed as JTM's new supermarket opens. That location is about three miles away from the one beginning construction and is relatively new. It opened in 2003, but is in a shopping center that lost its prime Kmart department store anchor in 2012.

There also is a Piggly Wiggly store at 3846 St. Marys Road, about four miles from the Woodruff Farm location just under construction. Milligan said the stores typically draw customers from about two miles away from them.

Overall, JTM operates 19 Piggly Wiggly supermarkets in the area, an all-time high for the company. That includes eight in Columbus and four in Phenix City, making it the largest grocery company in the market in total locations. Publix, Winn-Dixie and Walmart Supercenters are its main competitors.

JTM also has stores in the Georgia communities of LaGrange and Thomaston, and the Alabama cities of Eufaula, Lanett and Opelika.

Piggly Wiggly is a privately owned supermarket chain founded in Memphis, Tenn., in 1916, although its headquarters is now in Keene, N.H. JTM is among its independent owners across 17 states.

Milligan noted that the first Piggly Wiggly in Columbus was on Broadway, opening in 1918. His father's first location, the store he purchased in the mid-1960s, was in Baker Village Shopping Center. Neither location exists today.

The general contractor for the Woodruff Farm shopping center is Columbus-based Pound Construction, while the company clearing the land is Warr Grading, based in Phenix City. Most of the subcontractors should be local as well, he said, which is a good thing.

"They're our friends and neighbors," he said. "They're people in our community. We want them to do well, too."

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