OHIO VALLEY — The Eastman family in the Ohio Valley region has become synonymous with grocery services.
“My brother and myself, our parents were both from Meigs County,” said Brent Eastman, Ohio Valley Supermarket co-proprietor and co-director of the company’s Piggly Wiggly locations. “In 1957, Dad (Bob Eastman) began a career with the Kroger Company in Pomeroy. He worked there for a number of years and was promoted there and finally to the position of a store manager for a store in Gallipolis. That was in the late 60s. We lived here for a couple of years and from there he was promoted numerous times with Kroger and we moved down through southern Ohio and over into the Teays Valley region in West Virginia. He went from store to store as a manager and ended up as a district zone manager for the southern West Virginia division. He was in that position for several years.”
Eastman said “all along” he felt his father’s dream was to hopefully move back to southeast Ohio. Around 1979, the Eastman family had that opportunity. Bob decided to go into business for himself and chose a site on what was old 35, now considered Jackson Pike, to build Ohio Valley Supermarkets’ first Foodland store, built from the ground up. The store opened in March of 1980. The store was originally titled “Ohio Valley Foodland,” according to Brent.
The store has been remodeled and expanded.
Brent said that he and his brother, Kevin, grew up in the grocery business and have been around it all their lives. Brent was a junior in high school when the family opened their first store and his brother was in seventh grade. The pair throughout high school and college worked stocking shelves on weekends and summers as well as other odd jobs required of the heirs of a family business. Kevin has had as much a hand in the business as Brent.
In the 80s and 90s, Brent said the company had lots of opportunities because business was doing well.
“We ended up taking that opportunity and acquired and built several stores,” said Brent.
Brent said Ohio Valley Supermarkets at one point had 13 stores to the company’s name. Currently, Ohio Valley Supermarkets has 10 stores evenly split between the Save-A-Lot franchise and the Piggly Wiggly franchise. All of Ohio Valley Supermarkets Foodland locations were switched over to the Piggly Wiggly name within the last year.
The Eastmans felt 2015 offered a good opportunity to change into a new franchise because “the Pig,” as Piggly Wiggly has come to be known, had a strong image in the south and is noted for being the first true self-service grocery store in America. It was a name among the first in modern grocery businesses. The Oak Hill Foodland was the first to be transformed into a Piggly Wiggly.
Eastman said ultimately he felt the transition to the name of Piggly Wiggly and its services was a good decision benefitting customers as well as the company.
Brent said that Piggly Wiggly was well known for its meat market and despite Ohio Valley Supermarkets’ strong image in meat departments, joining with Piggly Wiggly continues to improve on business regional integrity.
Piggly Wiggly was officially founded Sept. 6, 1916. According to Brent, the franchise has been a proven success for a hundred years and he is proud to align his business with that same level of achievement.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.