COMMUNITY LEGACY: Tuscaloosa grocer builds on the ‘local’ and ‘fresh’ ideals set by his Dad

B&W FOODS PARTNER JAY WELBORN WORKS DAILY TO KEEP HIS
FATHER’S LEGACY ALIVE IN THE COMPANY’S 4 PIGGLY WIGGLY STORES

Jimmy Welborn traveled five days a week in his job in the wholesale grocery business, often with his young son, Jay Welborn, beside him.

Jay Welborn in the meat department of his University Boulevard store.

When his dad decided to try his hand at running a grocery, Jay was in college and hoping to go into the grocery business. Jimmy took Jay to a run-down, old A&P building in Northport and asked, “What if we buy this store?” Jay recalls responding, “Dad, anywhere but here.”

I couldn’t see what he saw – a customer base that was there looking for a place to shop,” Jay said. “Through word of mouth and good value to the customer, business just grew and grew and grew.”

OPENING STORES WHERE NEEDED
Jimmy and his longtime friend, Ronnie Baker of Pell City who operates supermarkets throughout East Alabama, opened their first Piggly Wiggly grocery store in 1998 in Northport under the banner of B&W Foods Inc. A second store on Tuscaloosa’s Greensboro Avenue came along two years later. “My dad knew its history, so he was a big advocate of us going after that store,” said Jay.

Ronnie Baker and Jimmy Welborn. Photo provided.

The partners built a third store on University Boulevard, opening in 2008.  “Mr. Baker and my dad decided to start from scratch,” said Jay. “They built a store three times the size of what was here before, so we could serve a broader range of customers.” By 2009, they had a fourth store on Culver Road next to Stillman College.

The great thing about Piggly Wiggly is that they have chosen to operate in some of the most underserved areas of our community,” said Jim Page, president and chief executive officer of The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. “They are really part of the fabric, part of the heartbeat of the communities in which they locate.”

When Jimmy Welborn founded the business, he had cancer. He lost his 31-year battle with the disease in 2010, nine months after opening his fourth store.

Jimmy and Jay Welborn. Photo provided.

LOCAL AND FRESH
My dad’s philosophy was that all grocery stores have the same can of green beans, the same two-liter Pepsi,” said Jay, who remains a partner at the company his dad founded. “Where we differentiate ourselves is in the produce and meat departments.”

A third of B&W’s sales comes from their in-house cut and packaged meat. “We are local. We are fresh,” said Jay. “We choose to cut our meat fresh in the store, all the way down to our chicken program.”

DOWN HOME, DOWN STREET CORPORATE CITIZEN
The B&W Foods stores “try to be as ‘down home, down the street’ as we can,” said Jay.

My dad was very influential in our development,” Jay explains. “At the end of the day, he cared about people, whether it be our customers or our employees.”

Besides the stores, Jimmy’s legacy lives on with the Mr. Pig Goes to the Market fundraiser, which has raised more than $250,000 for the American Cancer Society and the local hospital’s Help and Hope Fund, which provides assistance to those receiving treatments at the DCH Cancer Center. “We also developed a food voucher program with nutritionist from DCH to best meet the needs of patients during their treatment,” said Jay. It is “our opportunity to give back to organizations and a cause we are all affected by in some capacity,” said the second-generation operator of B&W Foods.

For the local chamber executive, the connection to community is clear. “Jay Welborn and the whole Piggly Wiggly family are great corporate citizens,” said Jim.

MEMBER SINCE 1998: B&W Foods operates Piggly Wiggly grocery stores on University Boulevard (shown here), Culver Road and Greensboro Avenue in Tuscaloosa as well as a Northport store. All four are open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

Story and photos by Nancy King Dennis

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