Food Lion closing

Hawthorne Road store will be open from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. until it closes Feb. 15

Shoppers cross the parking lot to shop at Food Lion on Hawthorne Road, which will be closing soon.

ERICA BROUGH/Special to the Guardian
Published: Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 3:28 p.m.

Food Lion is leaving Florida by closing 25 stores — including those in Gainesville, Alachua and Macclenny — and converting its Lake City store to a Harveys as part of a nationwide plan to close 113 stores the company said were underperforming.

A flier posted at the east Gainesville store on Hawthorne Road said it would have shorter hours, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., until it closes on Feb. 15. Employees said the store will not be receiving any more shipments and will have clearance sales starting Jan. 18 to get rid of the remaining merchandise with increasingly higher discounts as the closing date approaches.

North Carolina-based Delhaize America, Food Lion's parent company, announced the closures last Wednesday as part of plans that include closing some Bloom and some Bottom Dollar Food stores, converting others to Food Lion stores and closing a distribution center in Clinton, Tenn. After the closures and conversions, the company will operate 1,127 Food Lion stores in 10 states.

The company will continue to operate Sweetbay and Harveys stores in Florida.

In all, Delhaize is closing 126 stores with 4,900 employees. It will give severance pay to eligible employees and is encouraging employees to apply for open jobs in the company, the company said in a news release.

Most of the closures are in markets where the stores are more spread out, the company said.

While the closures are statewide, the east Gainesville store has faced increased competition with the opening in 2008 of the Walmart Supercenter on Waldo Road, the opening of the Dollar General across the street in 2010 and the renovation in 2010 of the Winn-Dixie on S. Main Street.

Still, it comes as a blow to the neighborhood and to east Gainesville, which has struggled to lure business investment.

"We don't have enough stuff on this side of town as is," said Theresa Gaither last Thursday, in the parking lot outside the store.

She said Food Lion was her main store until the Supercenter opened, "but when I don't feel like all that hoopla, I come over here."

Bud Sutton was there last Thursday in a car borrowed from his sister.

"There's a lot of us in the neighborhood that don't have cars," he said. "People will have to get a cab or bum a ride."

He said the new Dollar General across the street does have cheaper prices.

Outside the Dollar General, Christine Johnson said she goes to Food Lion when she needs something Dollar General doesn't have.

The shopping center anchored by Food Lion also has a Family Dollar, a Subway, a coin laundry and a barber shop.

Family Dollar store manager Johnny Shaw said that, if anything, Food Lion's closure would probably help business.

The announcement follows last year's Albertsons closure on NW 13th Street. On the other hand, Winn-Dixie signed a five-year extension last week to its lease on N. Main Street, according to Aaron Bosshardt, president of Bosshardt Property Management, which handles the Northside Shopping Center. Winn-Dixie had been considering a westward relocation before the Gainesville City Commission voted to have Mayor Craig Lowe send a letter expressing the city's support for the company.

Alachua will still have a Hitchcock's supermarket and a Walmart Supercenter is expected to open there in two years.

Anthony Clark is the Gainesville Sun business editor.

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