Tim Lowe transforming Lowes Foods

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Tim Lowe is at the helm of a company based in Winston-Salem that’s turning grocery shopping into something you’ve never seen or “experienced before.” Lowe (no relation to the company’s founders) is the president of Lowes Foods, the grocery store chain that traces its humble beginnings to Wilkes County in the early 1950s.

Today, Lowes Foods consists of nearly 100 stores in Virginia and the Carolinas. Lowe has a comprehensive retail background. He started out as a licensed pharmacist, but would later work for retail giants Circuit City, Best Buy and Wal-Mart, among others. Lowes Foods hired him last year to re-launch the company.

“They were interested in finding out how do we do something different within the organization to keep us relevant and on the forefront of moving forward,” he says.

The transformation includes a big new emphasis on local products. “We have over 2,500 local products we carry. And when you go through and look at that, we’re creating jobs here local in the Carolinas and we’re creating opportunities back here.”

It also includes what you could call “retail-tainment.” In the flagship Robinhood Road store in Winston-Salem, customers join store “hosts” (as Lowe calls them) in a “chicken dance” every time the rotisserie chicken comes out the oven. There’s also a “Sausage Works” counter where a crazy “sausage professor” is constantly inventing new varieties and entertaining the kids. A “beer den” where customers can buy refillable 64-ounce jugs or “growlers” of their favorite craft brews and a coffee/chocolate area add to the menu of “concepts” the company’s rolling out.

“Why not have an opportunity where you can go to a store if you need to get in and out quick, you can do that. But if you want to come in and bring your kids in and be able to have an experience, you can do that as well,” Lowe says.

Watch the video that accompanies this article to see some of these “concepts” in action. Lowes Foods plans to introduce many of them in its stores system-wide in the coming months.

“We want to create the opportunity where when folks walk in here, there’s a sense of pride and community,” Lowe says. “Our job is not to be an incrementally better grocery store. We want to create something different and unique in the grocery experience overall.”