Piggly Wiggly: Smiles in the aisles

Pictured with some of the Piggly Wiggly meat department’s holiday specialties are, from left, assistant manager Bobby Wells, meat manager Chris Morris, store manager Brandon Givens and co-manager Richard Sanders.

Wayne Vinson has been meeting customers’ grocery needs for so long, it sounds a bit like second nature when he describes his holiday business.

The Summit Piggly Wiggly co-owner says that Christmastime at “The Pig” is “just supplying the needs of people for their holiday eating.”

Food sales in December involve traditional baking needs for all the cookies, pies and gingerbread men on people’s to-do lists, as well as the turkeys and hams that will serve as focal points on the Christmas table.

But Vinson notes that the classic main courses  are far from the only way to go.

“What a lot of folks like to do, to keep down the monotony, is get a rib-eye roast,” he said.

And if someone comes in with a picture from one of the glossy cooking magazines and asks for a pork crown roast, a “six-rib prime rib from the small end” or something equally specific and luxurious, the Piggly Wiggly meat crew will be able to get it within just a couple of days.

“That’s the key to independents, the few that still exist,” Vinson explained. “If you don’t see what you want, ring the bell and we’ll cut it.”

And the willingness to special order extends beyond the meat cooler.

“Our store’s not real huge but we’ve got plenty of space. All you have to do is ask and we’ll get it. The customer can control what’s on the shelf,” Vinson said.

But for all the traditional aspects of holiday cooking and eating, Vinson said the grocery business “is always a changing thing,” whether because of eating habits, the economy, or even government policy in Washington.

“We’ve seen a lot of innovative things in the retail grocery business,” Vinson said. As an example, he spoke of a trial program rolling out in various places nationwide, including northern Mississippi, in which SNAP recipients would be encouraged to eat more produce. If a SNAP user spent a certain amount at a particular store, he or she would be entitled to an additional amount of fresh produce.

But despite technological advances in the food business, one distinctly old-fashioned thing about Piggly Wiggly is the human element.

“The main thing in Summit,” Vinson explained with pride, “is that we have young people coming up – we’re blessed by them – that are interested in the grocery business. Most millennials don’t want to work in retail, they want to work in computers.”

Judging by the “Can I help you’s,” the thank-you’s and all the smiles in the aisles, Vinson has a magic touch for picking the right millennials.

“We’re blessed with a good young crew and they’re doing a great job.”

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