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Letters: Oriental's Piggly Wiggly
Food For Thought on Shopping Locally
December 6, 2016

his has been a year of some tough lessons for Oriental. In late 2015, the independent grocery, Town-n-Country, ended its 40+ year run after losing so many customers to the newly opened Walmart Express a few hundred yards away. Then this past January, Walmart closed its store with just 2 weeks notice. That move by the giant retailer left Oriental without a full service grocer for the first time in memory. Many in Oriental and the surrounding communities bemoaned having to drive more than a dozen miles to the closest supermarket. So when the owner of the Piggly Wiggly in Grantsboro floated the idea of putting a smaller Pig in the Walmart building, the reaction was enthusiastic. More than 700 filled out a survey and Billy Flockhart worked to put what they said they wanted on the shelves. Now, 4 and a half months since the Piglet’s opening, some are concerned that the lessons of the past year are fading from memory. (Most recent letters appear first.)

To the Editor:

Remember when Oriental made the national nightly news on two stations? It was a sad story on how Walmart treated our town by pulling out after a short time. What a downer.

Imagine if the news media could report on how a unique small town rallied to support our new local grocery. The results in good publicity for our town would be huge. An upbeat story about folks coming together for everyone’s benefit. I am convinced people looking for a place to retire consider a grocery store a huge plus.

I feel upbeat every time I walk in to The Piglet. Clerks are friendly, the store is clean, bright, the meat department excellent. I’ve tried lots of the fresh produce. Impressive. (Love the asparagus especially).

My husband and I have talked it over. We are buying everything possible at Piggly Wiggly every week.
Let’s keep The Piglet in our town. It’s smart on so many levels.

Julie Nuckolls
Oriental, NC

To The Editor:
I am writing in response to Mike Zimet’s request that “we stakeholders in the success of the ‘Pig’ enter the discussion”. I am pleased that the management has been responsive to specific requests I have made, to stock certain items. I would like to address the inventory more generally.

I think that Billy may have paid a little too much attention to a vocal minority of folks who were pushing for a lot of natural or organic food items. That would have been fine, except that with a limited space, this means less room for what I’ll call “normal” food. Many of the standard items you would expect to find in a store of this size are not there due to, I assume, an inordinate amount of space being taken up by items that only a few folks want to purchase.

Anyway, these are strictly my thoughts, and I hope they will be seen as constructive, as intended. It is my hope that Billy’s investment in this community not just make it, but thrive.


Peter Ritchie Oriental 12/15/16
Hello from Greensboro, NC. My husband and I were first introduced to Oriental in 1997. We were at a boat show in Greensboro and the Oriental School of Sailing had a booth. Needless to say, 18 years we have had a boat in Oriental.

We have seen Oriental ebb and flow. The property, the opposition to stores/businesses being built, etc. When we are in Oriental we always shop local, because local is what makes a community viable. If you do not support your local business/community they have no reason to be there. Before Walmart, I always shopped the Town and Country; they always had some specialty items that were appealing that you could not find else where.

I have found the same specialty items at the Piglet. I love this store, it has a little of everything, if you can not find it there then something is wrong and you should ask. I think the Piglet has a great selection.

I am finding it hard to believe that if an item at the Piglet is 10-25 cents more that it is worth while to drive to Grantsboro, or even New Bern, for a cheaper price.

TownDock is our home page when we log on every morning, it keeps us in touch with what is going in in Oriental. Even though we do not live there, I would like to think that all the folks in Oriental would support the Piggly Wiggly.

You have to support the local businesses in order to keep them in your community.

Patti Raxter
Greensboro, NC

To the Editor:

Thanks to those community friends who support and realize what an asset Billy Flockhart and the Piggly Wiggly is to our town. A huge effort and commitment was made, on our behalf, and for many…it has been greatly appreciated. Running a business in a small “vacation” community can be difficult at best. Groceries and gas are certainly necessities that keep everyone going. While price can be a decision maker…so is convenience and good will.

We all remember life when we were “without” and we now have a nice, clean, well-stocked facility that has a large impact on daily life. Let’s all commit to “pay it forward” in our appreciation to Billy and his staff by shopping there for the bulk of our groceries. Not just as a place to pick up what wasn’t bought elsewhere. It makes all of us a stronger town, better neighbors and is simply the right thing to do.

Scott Williams Resident and Business Owner Oriental 12/9/16

Thanks to Ken Laser, Suzanne Gwaltney and others who have expressed support for the “Piglet”. I have spoken to Billy Flockhart several times and it is very apparent the effort he has made to ensure the success of this new venture. He has stocked 85% of the items that were requested by our community which is a significant commitment. However, we are not even buying the items that we asked him to stock.

I asked Billy about pricing and our Oriental store, like his other store in Grantsboro, is set at the system’ s lowest pricing level. As others have noted, you can buy some staple items locally at better pricing but I appreciate the Piglet’s great store service, the sparkling full butcher shop, the fresh produce and overall convenience. If paying an extra $1 for a loaf of bread gets me the rest of the shopping experience, then I think it is worth it. Plus we are supporting a local businessman, not a large impersonal chain (as it was when the facility was a Walmart Express). This store has the mark of Billy’s blood, sweat, and tears.

The issue according to Billy is not traffic, he has acceptable but not exceptional customer count. The problem is that most of us think of the Oriental Piggly Wiggly as a “second stop”, or fill in store to be used only if we need a few items. That presupposes that most of us make our major grocery purchases in New Bern or on the way to and from.

This will kill the store and Billy’s investment in our community. For example, meat sales in the Piglet for a given week in November were just 25% of the sales in his Grantsboro store.

If we could change Oriental shopping patterns and think of the Piglet as a “First Stop Store. then we will have helped Billy significantly. Perhaps our mantra should be “Piglet First”. If we all try a little harder, this wonderful addition to our community will be around for a long time.

Mike Zimet

You may think it’s cheaper to go “across the street” to buy some of your needed items, but just how “cheap” and “convenient” will it be if The Pig disappears? Which it will if we do not support it.

Yes, I have gone elsewhere a few times — but only when I needed a particular item immediately that The Pig was out of. Also, I have asked for items that were not stocked there to become available as they both were things that I purchased regularly and were necessary for my restricted diet due to many food intolerances. Low and behold they appeared a few days later.

Thank you, Billy Flockhart, for coming to our rescue.

Please, let us not forget our former “grocery store less” situation.

Thank you,

Sue Mauney

To the Editor,

In regards to Ken Laser’s letter, we in our household agree with Ken 100% and have recommitted ourselves to support The Piglet even more than we have so far. We hope others will make the same commitment.

We know it’s hard to break long-held buying habits; loyalties to certain brands, certain stores, etc. And, as Billy Flockhart made clear early on, the Piglet simply can’t compete with prices offered elsewhere on some products. Breaking those old habits can certainly help in this regard.

It’s important to factor in the positive features that Billy has offered us as a community, among which are convenience, immediate response, local employment, an on-site café’ and deli, cut flowers (a personal favorite) and most importantly new friends to Oriental who have come through for us with a commitment to work hard doing just what they said they would do. We must continue to do our part as well.

At a Q & A meeting held prior to opening the Piglet, Billy suggested that once things were up and operating we might occasionally have “How are we doing ? “ meetings, perhaps at the Old Theater. Now might be a good time for one to get Billy’s perspective on the relative success of his endeavor and a back-and-forth airing of thoughts and ideas. From our point of view we love the place and things are going great but let’s hear from Billy and others so we can keep this great resource in our community.

Patrick Del Rio
Oriental, NC


The Pig is convenient if you need something that you have forgotten to buy elsewhere. It is cheaper to go across the street to Dollar General for paper products, drinks etc. prices are higher then most places. No local product. It is easier to drive to New Bern that has two stores that offer more product. Bread is too high along with most basic stuff. I use it if I have to. Don’t get local ads in the mail so don’t know what’s on sale. It is not more expensive to go to New Bern or Sam’s club if you need a big order. Doesn’t cost more to drive to these places.

Beth Fisher Oriental 12/7/16

Dear Editor:

I would like to take this opportunity to my express appreciation to Billy Flockhart for his investment in our community. The Piggly Wiggly is a refreshing new experience for the village of Oriental and surrounding towns. It is a delight to go inside this lovely grocery store and find the wide variety of food and consumables that have been displayed in such an attractive fashion. The store is always clean, employees friendly and helpful, and the welcome feeling is evident the minute you enter Mr. Flockhart’s store. It was such a big void when there was no grocery store in Oriental. The impact on our community was serious; not only for residents, but also for tourists who bring revenue into our town.

As a Realtor who owns a business in this community, my buyers always ask about where to shop for groceries and this factors into their decision about where to purchase a home. The detriment to our community and economy is far reaching when we lack the local services and day-to-day conveniences like grocery stores.

I would encourage all residents to support our local Piggly Wiggly and to recognize that doing so has a positive effect on our community and long term implications on the well-being of our town.

Thank you, Mr. Flockhart, for investing in and joining our community. The “Pig” is providing us with a wonderful grocery store that is convenient, well stocked, and committed to top quality service. I look forward to many more pleasurable shopping experiences in the “Pig” and encourage our neighbors to show gratitude to Billy Flockhart and support our community by patronizing the Piggly Wiggly in Oriental.

Sincerely, Suzanne Gwaltney Oriental 12/7/16
To the Editor,

I assume that everyone in the Oriental area who lived through Walmart’s bailing on us is familiar with the term “food desert”. Not having a grocery store in town was not a happy experience. The entire community rejoiced when “the Piglet” arrived.

Lately, I have been hearing rumors that the store is not doing as much business as Billy Flockhart had expected. I’ve heard various explanations for that being bandied about. My suspicion is that many of the people who were ecstatic when the store opened are now not doing the bulk of their grocery shopping there. If you think you know why, please enter the discussion.

It’s a small store but Billy has gone to great lengths to accommodate different folks’ product requests. If we don’t patronize his store and his business is not successful, how long do you think he will stay in business? If you must have something that he doesn’t carry then, of course, buy it elsewhere, but go to our Piggly Wiggly first to buy the other items on your grocery list.

Our community needs to support this store or suffer the fate of being a food desert once more.

Ken Laser Oriental 12/6/16

From the TownDock Archives:

July 2016 – The Piglet Opens

January 2016 – Walmart Closes Express Store In Oriental

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