W. Lee Flowers

W. Lee Flowers & Co., owner of KJ’s in Florence, is being acquired by Alex Lee Inc.

Alex Lee Inc., the parent company of the Lowes Foods grocery chain, is acquiring W. Lee Flowers & Co. whose headquarters are in Florence County. The purchase will bring two Carolinas-based, family-owned grocery and distribution companies together.

W. Lee Flowers owns and operates IGA and KJ’s Market grocery stores throughout South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. That includes three KJ’s in Florence: one on Pamplico Highway, one on Ebenezer Road and one in Quinby.

The wholesale and retail grocery and food distributor, founded nearly a century ago in Lake City, is based in Scranton. It distributes to more than 75 grocery stores in the Carolinas and Georgia, including 50 stores that it owns and operates.

According to a release from Alex Lee, W. Lee Flowers will operate as a subsidiary of Alex Lee, a family-owned and operated North Carolina-based company with a headquarters in Hickory, North Carolina. It will keep the company’s facility in Scranton. The 400,000-square-foot warehouse facility houses all major departments, including grocery, meat, dairy and produce.

The release further states that employees of W. Lee Flowers are expected able to keep their jobs. However, longtime executives William Henry Johnson Jr., president of W. L. Flowers, and Heyward L. King Jr., chairman, will retire.

Current executive vice president Rick Geary will take over leadership duties for W. Lee Flowers.

The acquisition, according to the company release, will enable Alex Lee to “expand its geographic footprint, enhance operations in new markets and offer consumers a greater variety of products at competitive costs.”

“For years, Alex Lee and W. Lee Flowers have worked together in various capacities,” Brian George, president & CEO of Alex Lee Inc. said in a released statement.

“Together, we have an opportunity to accelerate our growth in all markets, while continuing to provide exceptional services," George said. "W. Lee Flowers and its employees have built invaluable relationships within their local communities that we expect will only solidify as we move forward together.

“While we look to the future with enthusiasm, we also recognize the achievements that have led us to this point. Henry Johnson and Heyward King have shepherded the organization their fathers helped build through many decades of growth. They have more than earned our respect and gratitude, as well as a pair of long and happy retirements.”

“We are thrilled to continue serving our customers and distribution partners within the Alex Lee family of companies,” Johnson said in a released statement. “Alex Lee shares our longtime commitment to prioritizing customer service and value. With the support of Alex Lee and its fellow subsidiaries, we believe we’re in an ideal position to thrive in a competitive environment.”

Founded in 1931, Alex Lee employs approximately 10,000 people. Lowes Foods includes nearly 85 full-service grocery stores in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, as well as Just Save food stores in North Carolina.

For more information, visit alexlee.com.

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