Bi-Lo acquires shuttered Sweetbay on Spring Hill Drive

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SPRING HILL – The parent company of the BI-LO and Winn-Dixie grocery store chains, Bi-Lo Holdings, LLC, announced Tuesday it will acquire all Sweetbay, Harveys, and Reid’s supermarket chains from Delhaize Group for $265 million.

Following regulatory review and approval, Bi-Lo Holdings will acquire 72 Sweetbay stores, plus the leases of 10 prior Sweetbay locations, including the supermarket that closed this winter at the four corners in Spring Hill, at 11160 Spring Hill Dr.

What remains to be seen is what Bi-Lo has in store for the four-corners location with covered glass on the windows an empty parking lot and with surrounding businesses and residents that have felt the impact of its closing to varying degrees.

“I’d say if we’re down, it would be 25 percent,” said Assistant Manager at nearby GNC, Chris Lamb, describes the impact the Sweetbay closing has had on the store. “We’ve definitely lost a good percentage of sales in the past weeks. In dollar amounts, they’ve significantly gone down.”

Lamb said he’d like to see something done with the store – whether Bi-Lo reopens the Sweetbay, or makes use of the lease with one of its other supermarket chains – either way it would bring a lot of traffic through the strip mall as it had in the past, which could come at the mutual benefit of the supermarket chain and its surrounding businesses.

“It was so convenient, because we could just walk in there and get groceries,” said New York Gourmet Bagels employee Kristen Gozdziewsk, who lamented the large, unused store and empty parking lot. “We’ve lost a lot of walk-ins, and being at the four-corners it’s not good. They need to have something in there.”

Trung Vandam, manager of “Nails So Happy,” is in the fortunate position of operating a business that maintains a regular clientele. Although his business has been impacted by the closing of Sweetbay by way of less walk-in appointments, too, he said, on Wednesday afternoon the reclining chairs were still occupied with customers, and with more seated in the waiting area.

“I’m kind of busy,” he said. “I have regular customers. When Sweetbay was here there may be some walk-ins, which has hurt a little bit, but most customers are regular clients. If you have walk-ins you’re busier, and with the grocery store it’s convenient.”

Christina Simmons, owner of “Chez Colette” hair salon, said she purchased the salon in January right before the grocer closed. But like Vandam, Simmons said her business has a steady client base, and since the hair salon has been there for 24 years, Sweetbay’s closing hasn’t had much of an impact.

“I think that the plaza’s really empty,” said. “It looks like it’s almost deserted. The parking lot is empty and it just doesn’t look good, because we’re in the center of town, and usually we’re the busiest at the four-corners.”

Other than the Sweetbay locations, Bi-Lo will also acquire 72 Harveys stores and 11 Reid’s stores, totaling 165 stores with approximately 10,000 employees throughout the southeastern United States.

According to a company statement, the transaction is anticipated to close in the fourth quarter of 2013 and is subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including expiration of the applicable waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976.

Until the transaction is complete, Sweetbay, Harveys and Reid’s will continue to operate independently from Bi-Lo Holdings and its subsidiaries.

“We are pleased to announce this transaction, which will build on the strength of our BI-LO and Winn-Dixie stores and allow us to extend our great products at great value to a broader customer base,” said Randall Onstead, president and CEO of Bi-Lo Holdings.

It is the hope of shoppers, and businesses, that Bi-Lo could do just that at the corner of Mariner Boulevard and Spring Hill Drive.

“It would have an impact for sure,” Lamb said. “If they put something back in there, I think it would stimulate some more business.”