What's In Store

Why grocery-loving Charlotte doesn’t have Ingles, one of NC’s biggest companies

Shoppers at an Ingles store in Asheville in a 2006 file photo
Shoppers at an Ingles store in Asheville in a 2006 file photo John Fletcher

Grocery-store competition in Charlotte is intense, with out-of-town chains like Publix and Lidl keep adding more stores and clashing with long-standing local grocers, such as Harris Teeter and Food Lion.

The popular New York grocer Wegmans is opening stores in Cary, Chapel Hill and Raleigh, but has been quiet about potential plans to move into the Charlotte market. Another popular grocery chain, born in North Carolina, is also absent from Charlotte, and mum about its plans for expansion here.

If you’ve spent time in the western part of the state, you’ve probably seen or shopped at Ingles, which is headquartered in Black Mountain, just outside Asheville, where founder Robert Ingle opened his first store in 1963. The company went public in 1987 and is now one of the biggest companies in North Carolina, with revenue last year of $3.8 billion.

Throughout the Carolinas, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama, Ingles operates 199 stores – but the closest ones to Charlotte are in Dallas, Bessemer City and Kings Mountain. Throughout the store’s history, Ingles has focused on “suburban areas and smaller towns,” Chief Financial Officer Ron Freeman said in an email.

The company has been “aggressive in remodeling stores and building new ones,” and plans to open a new 68,000 square-foot store in Asheville soon, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times.

So is Charlotte off Ingles’ list of potential expansion cities? Not necessarily.

“We are always looking for good locations where we can be successful, but generally do not talk about future locations for competitive reasons,” Freeman said.

The average Ingles store is about 60,000 square feet, much bigger than the average Harris Teeter or Publix (which are typically around 40,000 square feet.) An Ingles store in Black Mountain has a Starbucks as well as something not typically found in grocery stores anymore, or anywhere else for that matter: a DVD rental section.

“We look at each store’s demographics and competition to determine what products and departments to include. There can be a wide difference from store to store,” Freeman said.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta