Food Lion Rooted in Salisbury

A grocery store in 1949. Image from the State Archives

On December 12, 1957, the first Food Town—now known as Food Lion—opened in Salisbury. The chain began when brothers Ralph and Clifford Ketner teamed up with family friend Wilson Smith to leave Winn-Dixie and try their own hands in the grocery business.

The chain remained relatively small until 1968, when younger brother Ralph, started what’s now known within the company as “The Great Change.” Ketner cut prices dramatically, selling many items at or below their wholesale cost, and marketing the brand with the “everyday low prices” concept that other chains, like Wal-Mart, were beginning to embrace at the time. The company grew dramatically during the 1960s and 70s, increasing its sales 50-fold and adding nearly 100 stores during those two decades alone.

The brand changed its name from Food Town to Food Lion in 1983, after discovering another chain had the same name. The lion concept came from the Belgium-based Delhaize Group, which acquired the company in the 1970s.

Today, Food Lion operates more than 1,300 stores with 73,000 employees in 11 states throughout the South and Mid-Atlantic region.

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