The grocery business is more than just a job for Scott Dunn – it's his family legacy. “I learned the business from the ground up and [have] done everything there is to do in the grocery store, including bagging groceries,” says Dunn, president of Piggly Wiggly Central, headquartered in Pinetops, N.C. “I grew up in the business.”
Dunn's family has owned grocery stores since the 1920s, when his grandfather started Dunn's Grocery, a small store in Pinetops. That business was later purchased by Dunn's father, Marshall Dunn, who in 1968 bought into the Piggly Wiggly franchise. Today, the family's franchise encompasses nine locations in Pinetops, Ahoskie, Farmville, Grifton, Jackson, Rocky Mount and Wilson, N.C. Allen Jackson, Dunn’s partner in the company, also has strong family ties to the grocery business as he is a second generation store owner.
Piggly Wiggly Central's history of family ownership has a strong influence over the day-to-day operations of its stores, particularly when it comes to customer service. “As an independent, family owned business we strive to provide good service and react to our customers' needs,” Dunn says.
For Dunn, this service – which includes carrying groceries out to shoppers' cars – is what helps to distinguish it from its competitors. These include not only other grocery stores and big-box retailers, but national pharmacy and dollar store chains. “Our biggest challenge is increased competition in the marketplace from stores that didn't sell groceries in the past selling them now, as well as the cost of food going up to levels we've never seen before,” he adds. “We are able to stay competitive through our prices and doing the best we can with our service as well as in our perishable departments.”
Piggly Wiggly Central's meat department offers certified Angus beef cut to order by the store's butchers. “We're known locally for our meat department – a lot of people tell us they shop with us primarily for our meat,” Dunn says. “If a customer wants a certain cut of meat, we can do that.”
Dunn says another advantage of Piggly Wiggly Central is its internal culture. “Since we are family owned, we run the stores with that in mind and treat our employees like family,” he explains. “We communicate well with our employees about what we want and expect, and we also listen well to our employees and their ideas and suggestions.”
This family based culture comes across clearly to customers. “A lot of our stores are located in small towns, so it's natural that we offer a hometown, local feel,” he adds. “This is different from a larger, more corporate environment, where most of the time customers never even see who owns the company.”
Dunn's personal management style involves taking a personal, fair-minded approach to his employees. “I expect everyone to get their jobs done, but also believe in giving my management team the leeway to make their own decisions, implement their own ideas and think for themselves,” he says. “I believe in finding the best people who fit the company and empowering them to do their job.”
This approach has paid off in employee loyalty, as several Piggly Wiggly Central employees have been with the stores for more than 10 years.
Piggly Wiggly Central continues to grow, with several projects either underway or expected to begin within the next few years. These projects include adding a pharmacy to one store and remodeling others. In addition, the franchise is seeking opportunities to expand a few of its locations.
“A few of our stores are doing well enough that we have a need to expand beyond the four walls we have in place,” Dunn says. “I believe we always need to do things in our stores that help them improve and keep up with the times.”