New and rebranded grocery stores battle for Grand Strand customers

Picky food shoppers have more options than ever before around the Grand Strand. New grocery stores are opening, with many of them aimed at attracting more demanding customers.

The new Fresh Market store that opened Wednesday in Myrtle Beach is the second on the Grand Strand and seventh in the state.

The store bills itself as a specialty grocery store, with an emphasis on freshness and variety.

"We've got a floral department, we've got a produce department, we've got a meat and seafood department, and a bakery," said Bob King, Fresh Market's vice president of operations.

Some Fresh Market fans are willing to drive long distances to shop at the store.

"Because they're good. I get things here I can't get anywhere else," said Sam Brookbank of Tabor City, NC. "Horseradish. Fresh horseradish."

Fresh is the word at Food Lion as well. The store chain has unveiled a promotion to lower prices on many items at 169 stores around the Carolinas, including about 20 stores in the Myrtle Beach area. Food Lion is also widening the aisles and hiring more store clerks, to make its stores more customer-friendly.

"We've made produce our main focus and provide fresh produce every day for our customers, fresh quality meats," said Chris Cheers, manager of a North Myrtle Beach Food Lion.

But freshness isn't always the biggest factor for some shoppers, especially dedicated coupon clippers.

"My adult children like the organic things, but still, I look for the prices that are best for me and my family," said shopper Donna Ramsey of North Myrtle Beach.

Grand Strand food shoppers will soon have more opportunity to compare prices, with Lowe's Foods building a new store in Carolina Forest and two Piggly Wiggly stores in Murrells Inlet converting to Bi-Lo stores.

A Walmart Neighborhood Market, about a third the size of a typical Walmart supercenter, is scheduled to open in Myrtle Beach next summer.

Two new Publix stores are planned for this area. One is scheduled to open in North Myrtle Beach next year, while the other is planned for Pawleys Island with a 2015 opening.

Shoppers seem to like having plenty of options.

"I think it's good. If it's going to bring more people in to compete with other places, other grocery stores, the more, the better," said Craig Hughes of North Myrtle Beach.