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TOUR: KJ's Market - Johns Island, SC

KJ's Market
Owner: Alex Lee Inc.
Opened: 2020
Previous Tenants: Piggly Wiggly > Bi-Lo
Location: 3575 Maybank Hwy, Johns Island, SC
Photographed: January 2022
We are here to tour our second full supermarket on Johns Island! The first was the Food Lion, which we took a quick look at yesterday. At about 27,000 square feet, it's around 10,000 square feet smaller than the Food Lion. This store has a very interesting history -- it was apparently built as a Piggly Wiggly, which sold to Bi-Lo in 2013. Bi-Lo then sold the store to Alex Lee Inc., which I discussed briefly on a Lowes Foods post, in 2020.
This store inside is extremely similar to the Skylark Piggly Wiggly, which is a fun Piggly Wiggly > Bi-Lo > Piggly Wiggly progression. Above is looking to the left from the entrance/exit foyer area. Deli and bakery line the front part of the grand aisle, with produce and liquor to the back. Beer and meat line the back wall, with frozen at the far left side and dairy in the front left corner.
As we can see, the decor here is mostly left over from Bi-Lo (or is it Piggly Wiggly? Whoever it was who installed it in Skylark, I suppose) but with new lettering put over the old paneling, which has been painted. Despite the fact that it was more recently redone than Skylark, it's not in nearly as good condition.
We see lots of empty shelves or shelves filled with things they shouldn't be, such as this deli case with nothing but iced tea and drinks. Don't get me wrong, I love iced tea as much as the next guy (and probably more), but the deli should be the place for the deli. The bakery department in this store was also basically nonexistent.
KJ's Market seems to be Alex Lee's low-end brand, kind of like Food Lion vs. Hannaford if we compare KJ's to Lowes Foods. I'm not sure where this store falls on the spectrum of good to bad KJ's locations, but this one was not impressive. There was too much empty space, with not much to fill it...
We move on to produce and liquor in the back. I love the ceiling light feature, but again, we have not a whole lot of produce to choose from.

And the liquor store in the back.
We move on to service meat and seafood, which is present, but there's almost nothing in the service case and a lot of other merchandise in this space.
The store seems to be a very low-volume store and is probably struggling. It's sad to see, but the truth is that Food Lion is really good at the lower-end value-based, no-frills store format and this store is close enough that they're probably having trouble keeping up.
Center store here is fine, but not particularly special in any way. Storebrands include Food Club and IGA, although KJ's is not an IGA member. I believe it used to be.
I do appreciate the new aisle markers, but the decor on the perimeter is not good. Although it's new, it looks really old mostly because of the blue text. It looks vaguely like 1970s A&P decor that's been painted blue and white, and not in a good way. See this Associated for what I mean. You see in the deli and meat departments how it's been painted?
But we see some of the fixtures here are newer, such as these beer refrigerators. Actually, it looks like most of the beer, frozen, and dairy cases are new.
Here's beer and frozen in the back corner.
Frozen foods take up aisles 14, 15, and 16. Again, the freezers and the signage are new, but we really see the store does not look great.
This is the same layout as the Skylark Piggly Wiggly in this area, with frozen taking up both sides of the last aisle and dairy in the front corner of the store. Just a side note -- in this relatively small store of just 27,000 square feet, why are there two and a half full aisles of frozen foods? Doesn't that seem excessive? CitiGrocer in Elizabeth, at just under 40,000 square feet, has only one aisle with frozen on both sides. But then again that store focuses on perishables much more than this one does.
And here's dairy in the front corner. Again, I get that I was here in the off-season, but regardless, we can see the shelves were very nearly empty in some places.
And moving on to the front end, we have customer service on the dairy side of the front wall.
Unlike the Skylark Piggly Wiggly, there's an exit in the middle of the front-end here. And look at that, beyond the registers are floral and -- more frozen. Sure, it's just bagged ice, but that is five doors of ice. Again, isn't that a lot of space dedicated to frozen?
And here's a look at the overly-spacious entranceway. Well, I'm glad I got to see KJ's just out of curiosity, but I can't say I'd be in a hurry to return to one anytime soon. Up next, we'll be heading across the street to check out a small specialty market on The Independent Edition!

Comments

  1. Maybe some of it makes sense. The multiple cases for ice for the summer season with a lot of travellers needing that. The larger quantity of frozen cases to allow them to keep stuff in the off season (since frozen items will keep far longer than the fresh stuff would). And perhaps the large open areas seen now get filled with something during the busy times of year, as a place for extra stock of items that those travelling would be looking for?

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  2. Hi. I live in Charleston, and I've been to this store a couple of times - both as a Piggly Wiggly and a Bi-Lo.

    That's definitely decor that KJ's added. It's neither Bi-Lo nor Piggly Wiggly decor. The Skylark Piggly Wiggly maintained it's original Piggly Wiggly decor. Bi-Lo never did any sort of remodeling other than swapping out aisle markers and removing Piggly Wiggly logos. It was the same with this store.

    This is pedantic, but technically it's not a liquor section inside the grocery store. Grocers in SC are allowed to sell only beer and wine.

    I'm loving your tour of local (to me) stores! Keep up the good work.

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