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Winn-Dixie to take over Lehigh Sweetbays

October 16, 2013
By MEL TOADVINE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Lehigh Acres will have two Winn-Dixie supermarkets in a few months, following an announcement last week by Winn-Dixie owners Bi-Lo Holdings LLC, which said it is set to purchase Sweetbay locations from Sweetbay's current owner, Belgium-based Delhaize Group.

Sweetbay in Lehigh is at 61 Bell Blvd., at the corner where Leland Heights Boulevard changes names.

Eddie Pitts, Sweetbay's store manager in Lehigh, said he was aware of the pending sale but has not been told of any plans yet for the Lehigh store by corporate officials.

Article Photos

Sweetbay supermarket in Lehigh Acres.

Shoppers throughout Florida will find that the sale really means they will find that former Sweetbay locations will adopt the pricing strategy of Winn-Dixie, Bi-Lo officials said.

Winn-Dixie already has a supermarket in Lehigh that is located on Homestead Road and is in a shopping center with several stores and restaurants. The Lehigh store is a popular supermarket in Lehigh and has been here for several years. The Sweetbay on Joel Boulevard has been in Lehigh for less than 10 years. The Homestead store will become involved in the new Lehigh Plan which zeroes in on that area of Lehigh to make it a major "downtown" center with changes being planned by the Lee County Planning Department in cooperation with local groups in Lehigh which have been working on transforming Lehigh over the next several years.

Sweetbay Manager Eddie Pitts said that the same courtesy and good prices would continue when and if the store becomes a Winn-Dixie, which is assured with the announcement of the sale which said that all the Sweetbay supermarkets would become Winn-Dixies.

Lehigh has a population of more than 90,000 people and the locations of the two stores are on opposite ends of the community which could be a bonus for Winn-Dixie shoppers living in other areas of Lehigh.

Winn-Dixie uses a membership card system that has discounts on select items for customers who join the program and use their cards at the register. There are other discounts on gasoline if shoppers spend enough money at Winn-Dixie, and redeem points at certain gas stations that use the Fuel Perks program.

"Sweetbays have outstanding reputations, and their talented teams of associates have played a key role in making these stores an important part of the communities they serve," said corporate officials.

According to the announcement Bi-Lo's transaction is planned to close in the first quarter of 2014, pending regulatory approval, which marks only the latest gyration of brand identity for the grocery company. It noted that years ago Sweetbay was first known as Kash n' Karry and the company transformed in the mid-2000s into Sweetbay in a plan to become more upscale.

Bi-Lo Holdings LLC early had announced a deal with Delhaize to acquire substantially all of the stores in the Sweetbay, Harveys and Reid's supermarket chains from Delhaize for $265 million. In coming months, Bi-Lo was able to acquire 22 Piggly Wiggly stores in South Carolina and coastal Georgia and then sell seven Bi-Lo supermarkets in North and South Carolina to Publix supermarkets.

Last month, the parent company of both Bi-Lo and Winn-Dixie announced plans to launch an initial public offering of stock, just as the original deal with Delhaize is set to close in other areas.

The plan is to convert all 72 Sweetbay supermarkets into Winn-Dixie stores. The holding company is based in Jacksonville. Bi-Lo said in a news release that it plans to keep all store-level employees after the deal is completed. All together the 155 Delhaize stores have some 10,000 employees.

Countywide, there are several Sweetbay markets.



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