CHRISTIANSBURG — The owner of the last surviving Wades Supermarket is planning a major overhaul he hopes will save the third-generation family business that has been teetering on the edge for years.
Greg Wade said he’s going to reduce the size of the grocery store by about 60%, give up on competing with Kroger on many products and focus on what he says Wades does best: meat, deli, bakery and produce.
The new store concept will be larger than a convenience store, but smaller than a supermarket. It will only stock its top performing 2,000 items, instead of trying to make a few pennies on every variety of canned beans.
The company is playing with a few different names, possibly Wade’s Deli, Meats and Café. But they’ll figure that out later.
The shelves inside the Christiansburg store are already largely empty. Wade says he plans to consolidate down into what is now the deli and produce aisles in the western corner of the building over the next couple of months.
Eventually, Wade says he’ll construct a wall to section off the rest of the facility and make room for something else to move in — possibly a tenant. But he wasn’t ready to share any details about that yet.
The idea is that customers will use grocery delivery or pickup services at major chains for their dry items, like beans and laundry detergent. And then they’ll stop by Wades for everything else.
“They [big chains] can buy Tide for cheaper than I can, so I can’t compete on the price of Tide,” Wade said. “But they don’t do our deli or our meat because of the labor.”
The Wade family legacy runs deep in the New River Valley, where the nearly 70-year-old company once had seven grocery locations from Blacksburg to Pearisburg. All but one have closed in recent years, as giants like Kroger, Walmart, Food Lion and Aldi have grown in the region.
The Christiansburg location has long been the company breadwinner. It’s still open, but even it isn’t turning a profit anymore.
Greg Wade says there’s a lot of reasons for that, including the increasing competition. He has also been dealing with health struggles after he developed sepsis from a cat bite.
Lowell Wade, Greg Wade’s 86-year-old father who ran the business during most of the expansion years, died around the same time on May 27.
Greg Wade admits the store fell into a state of neglect during all the turmoil, but he says he’s finally healthy now — and ready to fight for the family business.
“My father educated me when I was a kid,” Wade said, adding that he was practically raised in a grocery store. “I guess it’s my time to show myself that Greg Wade can be successful as well.”
The businessman admits the new concept he’s about to try is untested, but he said he’s going to see if it takes off.
“I don’t really want to work for a competitor,” Wade said. “So this is what I’ve got to do.”