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Strained by throttled supply chain, new Alcoa Food City construction stalled

A Food City planned for Alcoa’s Springbrook Farm city-center project is not going as quickly as originally planned and may take until at least another year plus or early 2023 to complete, according to top company officials.

Currently, a large parking lot and some steel beams are all that exist of the planned grocery store, set to replace the one on North Hall Road, across from Alcoa Tenn Federal Credit Union.

But that may be all people see at that site for a while, even as roads continue to develop in the area.

Steve Smith, president and CEO of Food City’s parent company, Abingdon, Virginia-based K-VA-T Food Stores, said in a phone interview Friday a combined number of issues are delaying this Food City location’s progress.

“First and foremost, we’re waiting on a road to get finished,” Smith said, noting local road projects with late 2021 opening dates do affect the project.

Winter is a bad time to move forward with construction, he said, so crews will probably resume work in early 2022, he added.

Parts of U.S. Highway 129 and internal Springbrook Farm roads are currently underway. Alcoa Development Services Director Megan Brooks told city leadership in a recent meeting that Faraday Street and Marconi Boulevard, which connect Springbrook Farm with the city’s school/residential areas, may be completed by November.

Previously, K-VA-T officials thought the grocery store would be done by 2021.

But, as with many industries across the U.S., throttled supply chains and high construction costs are pumping the brakes.

Alcoa City Manager Mark Johnson told city commissioners recently that Food City was plagued by high steel prices.

That’s true, Smith said, noting “Hopefully, steel prices will come down soon.”

But that’s not the only material Food City stores are struggling to acquire.

Smith mentioned another grocery store project in Virginia that K-VA-T is trying to fulfill. Construction is a month behind there because insulation to build freezers is hard to come by, he said.

“Another one is shelving,” he added. “Something as simple as shelving to put groceries on. There are back orders on those.

“You know, you think, ‘Well, jeez, 18 months into this, wouldn’t people have figured this out?’ And, you know, they blame it on everything from help situations (lack of employees) ... to raw product supply. The grocery business didn’t use to be this hard: You ordered stuff, you got it in, and you went about your business.”

Thankfully, Smith said, the lease on the North Hall Road Food City lasts for some time more. The company plans to vacate that building as soon as it can occupy the new one.

When it’s done — hopefully by early 2023, Smith said — the new grocery store will be about 54,000 square feet and have close to 240 parking spaces.

It could bring about 50-70 jobs as well.

Regardless of the delay, Smith said he still believes it’s an ideal location.