JTM Corp., which operates the Piggly Wiggly supermarkets in the Columbus-Phenix City area, has pulled the plug on its second struggling store in less than six months.
The first was on Victory Drive in south Columbus in early February. On Wednesday, Phenix City-based JTM closed the doors of its 3745 U.S. Highway 80 store in Ladonia Square shopping center. That location opened in 1977 and was the first built from the ground up by the company as part of the center.
The thread connecting both shuttered stores is the intensifying competition around them, particularly the construction of new Walmart locations in the area, said Keith Milligan, financial controller of JTM Corp., a family-owned business founded in 1966 by his father, Tommy Milligan, with brothers Mike and Gil Milligan also helping run the company through the years.
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“The store was one of our two stores that had struggled to make money since Walmart opened all their latest stores in town,” Milligan said Wednesday via email, noting at 12,000 square feet, the U.S. Highway 80 store was the smallest one owned by the company.
Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart opened a freshly constructed Walmart Supercenter on Victory Drive last June. The nearby 3759 Victory Drive Piggly Wiggly in Heritage Corners shopping center was gone just seven months later. The mega-retailer then opened a Walmart Neighborhood Market off U.S. Highway 80 in Phenix City — about a mile away from Piggly Wiggly — in late January of this year. Now, the 40-year-old Piggly Wiggly store is going dark.
“We’ve had a lot of loyal customers that have shopped with that store for a long time and we are so thankful for those folks,” Milligan said. “There were quite a few tears shed by both long-time customers and our employees when we announced that we were closing that store. It was truly their store.”
Milligan said all employees at the latest closed location either have been or will be relocated to other supermarkets.
“Not a single employee has lost their job with us because of the store closing,” he said. “As a matter of fact, at least one of our customers has found her favorite cashier at one of our other stores. (They) were all smiles when they found each other again. We hope we see many more of those reunions.”
Even with the two store closures, JTM Corp. will have 17 supermarkets in its portfolio, including seven in Columbus and three in Phenix City (1130 U.S. Highway 280 Bypass, 1837 Stadium Drive and 512 13th St.). It also has locations in the Alabama communities of Eufaula, Opelika and Lanett, and the Georgia cities of LaGrange and Thomaston.
Milligan said JTM recently was approached by a potential buyer for Ladonia Square shopping center, with plans for the Piggly Wiggly space. The company’s corporate office is located in the center as well and will remain there, with JTM signing a long-term lease with the new owner, who he did not identify.
“We will continue to try our utmost to offer our customers the best food value that we can in our other locations,” Milligan said. “We really hope that many of our loyal customers will continue to let us serve them at one of their other local Piggly Wiggly stores.”
It was in September 2015 that JTM constructed a brand new 35,763-square-foot grocery store on Woodruff Farm Road in Columbus, with that location being certified as environmentally friendly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.