Piggly Wiggly owners: Customer service is key

Bailey’s Matthews family operates 4 area stores

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BAILEY — Butch and Lisa Matthews built their business on a simple premise: Combine the selection of a modern big-city supermarket with the convenience of a neighborhood grocery.

Through their company, the Matthews Group, the couple owns and operates four Piggly Wiggly stores in Bailey, Elm City, Kenly and Littleton — all towns with populations well below 2,000. The business is based at the couple’s Bailey home, located next door to the Piggly Wiggly store on Main Street.

“The main mission was to have a good grocery store in a small town with good pricing, great service and fresh product so people wouldn’t have to drive into a larger town to get those items,” Lisa Matthews said.

She and her husband say their favorite part of the grocery business is the people — both customers and employees.

“We have had the opportunity to be in all of these different small towns and meet all of these wonderful people,” Lisa Matthews said. “We have been blessed by their support and have tried to give them good-quality merchandise, friendly service and give back to the community.”

She takes pride in watching her employees become more confident, noting that many would be shy on their first day and blossom into outgoing individuals.

Butch Matthews said he’s most satisfied when his customers are happy. His keys to business success are good service, current technology and customer satisfaction.

His lifelong career in the grocery business began with delivering food from his uncle’s neighborhood store to customers on his bicycle. Eventually, he would land his next job at Winn-Dixie in Rocky Mount as a produce manager’s assistant. Military service paused his vocation when he was drafted into the Vietnam War.

Later, Butch Matthews began selling products to grocery stores as a wholesale vendor for Food Brokers Inc., routing orders to the Thomas and Howard Warehouse in Rocky Mount. After his next job at J.A. Richardson, Matthews opened his own convenience store, BJ’s, which he operated for two years.

He bought his first grocery store, a Hagwood’s market, from Jackie Hagwood on Dec. 5, 1983, later renaming the business after becoming a Red & White franchisee.

Butch Matthews married the former Lisa Williams in February 1993, and she became an integral part of the family business. The Matthewses opened, bought and sold several stores, with acquisitions shaping their current roster of four supermarkets. The Elm City store was added in 2001. All told, they’ve owned grocery stores in nine locations.

In 2003, the couple’s Red & White stores transitioned to the Piggly Wiggly brand. The storied Southern chain traces its roots to 1916 when Clarence Saunders opened what the company calls “America’s first true self-service grocery store” in Memphis.

The Bailey store hosted a 100th anniversary celebration for Piggly Wiggly in September 2016. Today, more than 530 independently owned and operated supermarkets in 17 states use the Piggly Wiggly name.

As local business owners themselves, the Matthewses prefer to shop local, keeping their locations running with the help of hardware stores, electricians and contractors in the communities they serve.

“You have to remember to support local, because it’s the local people in your community who support you and the rest of the town,” Lisa Matthews said.

Brooke Bryant is a southern Nash County native attending Appalachian State University who writes for The Appalachian student newspaper.