Three years after boosting its presence in Columbia County, Food Lion is retreating, planning to close three of its grocery stores before Valentine’s Day.
Two Martinez and one Evans location are among the 113 underperforming stores that parent company Delhaize America said will close within 30 days.
The closures are part of a strategy by Delhaize America to strengthen its U.S. portfolio, which includes shuttering a Tennessee distribution center, eliminating the Food Lion name from Florida, and rebranding other stores into Food Lions in Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia.
Closing on Feb. 15 or sooner are the grocery stores at 526 N. Belair Road, 3851 Evans to Locks Road and 4087 Old Petersburg Road.
Food Lion spokeswoman Christy Phillips-Brown said the stores could close sooner if merchandise is sold out. Mark down sales will begin Wednesday, she said.
Food Lion is the anchor tenant in the Shoppes at Petersburg on Old Petersburg Road and Village at Furys Ferry on Evans To Locks Road. The third is in the Home Depot-anchored Evans Exchange.
Many shoppers at Food Lion in The Village at Furys Ferry paused Thursday afternoon to read a sign posted on the door saying the store will close.
Evans resident Joe Johnson said he was disappointed because Food Lion is his preferred grocer because of its cleanliness and good sales.
“They have good prices, and there’s a lot of people in this area,” Johnson said. “I don’t understand why it’s closing.”
He also feared that the store’s closing could hurt other businesses in the shopping center.
Evans resident Patty Galvan shared that concern. Her parents own El Alazan Mexican restaurant, which opened in July in the shopping center.
“I think it’s going to be bad for businesses (in the center) also,” Galvan said.
The Evans To Locks Road store opened in October 2009. The Evans Exchange store opened in January 2009.
Phillips-Brown said a majority of the company’s 1,100 stores are leases, so it will not have to sell real estate after the restructuring.
“Food Lion is focused on repositioning our business for future growth,” said Cathy Green Burns, the president of Food Lion, which is headquarted in Salisbury, N.C. “By closing underperforming stores, we will continue to position Food Lion for success, especially in light of our brand strategy results.”
Delhaize is converting Bloom and Bottom Dollar Food stores in Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia to Food Lion stores and then retiring the Bloom name. The company is also shutting down its distribution center in Clinton, Tenn.
In all, Delhaize will be laying off 4,900 workers. The company will provide severance to eligible workers.
Phillips-Brown said about 100 employees will be affected by the closures in Columbia County.
“We’re working closely with our recruiting team to ensure all open positions are posted so that associates can see the open positions within the organization and apply for those,” she said.
Staff writer Jenna Martin contributed to this article.