Key Food Heads South to N.C.

NEW YORK With the opening of two new locations in North Carolina last week, Key Food here became the latest Northeastern grocery banner to seek growth in warmer climes. David Diaz, a member of the co-op who operates Key Food stores in the Bronx, has completed the transition of former Southern Family Markets locations in Goldsboro and Greensboro, N.C., to the Key Food Fresh Marketplace banner, said

NEW YORK — With the opening of two new locations in North Carolina last week, Key Food here became the latest Northeastern grocery banner to seek growth in warmer climes.

David Diaz, a member of the co-op who operates Key Food stores in the Bronx, has completed the transition of former Southern Family Markets locations in Goldsboro and Greensboro, N.C., to the Key Food Fresh Marketplace banner, said Jerry Cesaro, senior vice president of Key Food.

The introduction of the South's first Key Food stores comes months after a member of the Avenel, N.J.-based Foodtown cooperative said it would plant that chain's banner on four former Winn-Dixie stores in Florida, three of which have opened. And in 2004, White Plains, N.Y.-based Krasdale founded a Florida division to export its Hispanic banner, Bravo.

In the cases of Key Food and Foodtown, the Northeast co-ops said they see opportunity to market to neighborhoods that were overlooked by the stores' former parents.

“Cooperative members have a better focus on the neighborhood than the chains — chains are too cookie-cutter,” Cesaro told SN. “So we'll focus on the products that are best for the neighborhood and not necessarily what's best for a 100-store chain.”

And for Key Food, the former Southern Family locations are large enough to support its Key Food Marketplace concept, which incorporates more fresh food and service departments.

“[Diaz] wants to run the same type of store down there as he does up here, and there's an opportunity to take on some nice, 47,000-square-foot stores with full-service departments,” Cesaro said. “It's also in a growing area.”

Diaz acquired the stores earlier this year from C&S Wholesale Grocers, Keene, N.H., which purchased the stores from Bi-Lo in 2005. C&S, Key Food's supplier in the Northeast, will continue to supply the new sites.

As reported earlier this year in SN (June 5), Esmail Mobarak, a member of the Foodtown cooperative with three stores in New York, purchased four former Winn-Dixie stores on Florida's Atlantic coast with plans to reopen the stores under the auspices of the Foodtown banner.

Three of the locations, most recently a store in Davie, Fla., have since reopened.