Massive Food City could open later this year

Nathan Baker • Feb 6, 2014 at 5:09 PM

A new, larger Food City on Johnson City’s northwest side could bring a few features rarely seen in local supermarkets.

K-VA-T Food Stores CEO Steve Smith said the nearly 60,000-square-foot store in the recently greenlighted Franklin Commons development is expected to be completed by November or December.

“That’s the plan right now, but that might be a little ambitious,” Smith said. “The developer is supposed to close on the property sometime in the early spring, and he’s got to get the property in shape dirt-wise. We’ll build a store there as soon as they get the plat ready.”

That new store, one of the anchors of the new development at the intersection of State of Franklin Road and Sunset Boulevard, will be one of the largest in the Abingdon, Va.-based company’s chain, making room for a coffee bar, fresh sushi, a 48-seat upscale cafe and an in-store meat smoker.

Smith said the smoker, unique to the Johnson City location, would be used to smoke ribs and other cuts of pork and beef to sell in the store.

Depending on the fate of a pair of bills in the Tennessee General Assembly aiming to allow wine sales in retail food stores, the new Food City could have an all-new wine section, the CEO said, expected to be a lucrative product in the well-trafficked corridor near affluent neighborhoods.

The company is still exploring the possibility of selling beer for consumption on-site at the cafe, an option increasingly allowed at some supermarket chains elsewhere in the country. That will depend on the availability of the proper licenses and whether the venture is expected to make money, Smith said.

The larger, more modern store will take the place of the existing Food City location less than a mile away, tucked into a shopping center at North State of Franklin and Market Street.

Smith said the company’s lease on the property extends to 2016, and the store’s future is still uncertain.

“We don’t have any plans for it yet,” he said. “We’re still evaluating the needs of the nearby community and what we think is the best fit for that location.”

A possibility for the site is a Super Dollar Discount Food store, also owned by K-VA-T, which offers less brand variety at less expensive prices.

In other areas, Super Dollar stores have moved into the buildings left behind by vacating Food City stores.

The company currently operates 10 of the discount grocery stores in its three-state territory, only one of which is in Tennessee.

When Franklin Commons is fully developed, Nashville-based builder GBT Realty plans to include 82,000 square feet of retail space, a 7,000-square-foot bank and 18,000 square feet of restaurant floor space, in addition to the 59,500-square-foot supermarket.

The expansive development faced opposition from residents of nearby neighborhoods, who were worried that the extra vehicles brought by the new businesses could snarl traffic at the already busy intersection, but the Johnson City Commission gave the project the final go-ahead after receiving the results of a traffic flow study.

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