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Alex Lee Inc.: Immigrant Success Story

October 14, 2013

People from different lands come to America every year to have a good life and hope one day to make it big. These immigrants are hard working and willing to take jobs that some of the locals don’t want to handle anymore. Yet many have dreams beyond working and some establish their own business.

Lebanese immigrant Moses George and his sons Alex, and Lee purchased the Merchant’s Produce Company in 1931, in Hickory, North Carolina. The company supplied small, full service grocery stores.  Business grew and the name had to be changed to Merchants Produce and Grocery Company in 1938 as its product line expanded.

Business grew further necessitating an every larger distribution center. It also developed new capabilities of the company like logistics operations. While the company grew organically it also acquired other firms for further growth. In fact when the George family started the business it was with the purchase of an existing company hence acquisitions was not something new for the George family.

Today the company is named Alex Lee, Inc. reflecting the two brothers who grew the company. It is now a leading distributor of food and other products to retailers and food service operators. Its Merchants Distributor Inc. (MDI) subsidiary provides food and general merchandise to over 600 retailers in almost a dozen predominantly southeastern states. MDI has its own Consolidation Service business that provides warehousing and logistical services.

The firm though is not only into wholesale. It is also into retail. Alex Lee runs Lowe’s Food Stores. This is a chain of around 100 grocery stores located in Virginia and the Carolinas. Lowe’s Food started in Wilkesboro, North Carolina in 1954 and was a customer of MDI. It was acquired by MDI in 1984.

Through hard work, risk taking, and some degree of luck Alex Lee has made it this far and continues to prosper. The $17,000 purchase price investment is now a multibillion annual business with more than 10,000 employees. For the George family the American Dream came true.

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