Friday, February 03, 2017

TOP STORY >> Edwards opens Beebe store

Leader staff writer

Four generations of the Edwards family attended the grand opening of the new Edwards Cash Saver in Beebe on Wednesday morning.

Patriarch Oral Edwards, the founder of the Edwards grocery chain, cut the ribbon as his son, company president Steve, welcomed customers to the chain’s 11th store in the former Knight’s Super Foods.

The 50,000-square-foot store at 1701 W. Dewitt Henry Drive has been completely remodeled and the parking lot repaved. One visitor to the extensively remodeled store said it looked like a new building, with new cash registers, newly painted walls, new shelves, refrigerator cases, ceiling lights and more.

Also at the grand opening were other company officials, including Steve Edwards’ son-in-law, vice president Paul Rowton, and his wife, Ashley, and their sons, William and J.P.; Steve Edwards’ wife, Laura, and vice president Gary Proffitt and his wife, Amy.

Steve Edwards said the store will employ 104 people. “It is a good regional store that will pull in customers from several towns,” he said before the grand opening.

The first 100 customers received free bags of groceries, and the first 300 people were given silver dollars.

Beebe Mayor Mike Robertson said the community is pleased to have Edwards Cash Saver in Beebe.

“The city is very joyful to have a family business such as Edwards to invest in our community. We want to express our gratitude to this family for their commitment to this community bringing 100 jobs to local residents. It was wonderful to see a mass of shoppers on opening day and to hear the wonderful comments about how nice the store is,” Robertson said.

Beebe Chamber of Commerce director Kristen Boswell said, “We are thrilled to have Edwards in Beebe. It is exciting when a new business opens in our town. We have options. It creates more jobs and is great for the citizens and the local economy.”

Barbara Judkins of Ward said, “I like it. It looks nice. I can’t get over it. We checked out the store in Jacksonville last week. We shopped at the old Knight’s store. We do everything in Beebe.”

Darlene Bailey of Furlow said, “I love it. I use the one in Jacksonville all the time. Now I’ll be using both of them. It is clean. They have good prices and have fresh meat. Everyone is so friendly.”

In the last decade, Edwards has grown from three stores in east Arkansas to 11, with eight in central Arkansas.

The Edwards stores have become known as “the Meat People,” and the Beebe store has a large meat department featuring certified Angus beef.

Although the store does not have a full-service deli, it does have a large smoker making hot smoked ribs, chickens, pork, brisket and other meat items available daily.

The store also has a large fresh produce department, along with a full selection of name brand and private-label grocery items.

Because this is a Cost Plus supermarket similar to the Edwards Cash Saver stores in Jacksonville and North Little Rock, all of this will be available at the store’s cost plus 10 percent at checkout.

Edwards entered the central Arkansas market in 2009 after operating in east Arkansas for five decades.

In addition to Beebe and Jacksonville, Edwards has supermarkets in Forrest City, Harrisburg, Marianna and four locations in Little Rock, one in North Little Rock and Bryant and convenience stores in McCrory and Augusta.

Proffitt, of Cabot, supervises stores in central Arkansas. He oversaw the remodeling of the old Knight’s stores in Beebe and Jacksonville.

The Jacksonville store opened in April.

Proffitt began working for Knight’s while he was still in high school.

He gained extensive management experience while working for the Megamarket and Food 4 Less chains and later as a retail counselor for Fleming Foods.

The Knights founded the chain of supermarkets with a small store on Locust Street in downtown Cabot in 1971.

Knight’s opened new supermarkets in quick succession in Cabot (two), Beebe and Jacksonville.

Oral and Steve Edwards, who have more than 80 years of grocery experience between them, own GES, Inc. Along with Proffitt, the Edwards family also owns Tobacco Warehouse, LLC, which operates convenience stores.

The supermarkets and convenience stores are all in Arkansas and operate under the Edwards Food Giant and FG Express banners. “We continue to improve our stores and add new departments in order to protect our markets and better serve our customers,” Steve Edwards said.

The company traces its roots back to 1959, when founder Oral Edwards started his career in the grocery business as an assistant manager in Millington, Tenn. He next moved to Kennett, Mo., in 1961 as a store manager.

In 1962, he became part owner in a new store. He loaded up his family for the third and final time and moved to Forrest City in east Arkansas, where a new Liberty Supermarket opened there in 1962.