K-VA-T Food Store: Banking On Heritage
Jack Smith founded K-VA-T Food Stores when he opened his very first 8,800-square-foot (820 sqm) Piggly Wiggly store in Grundy, Virginia in 1955. He had help from three special stockholders which were his father, Curtis Smith, uncle Earl Smith, and cousin, Ernest Smith. Business grew with the opening in 1963 of a second store in South Williamson, Kentucky. At third store opened in 1965, in Pikeville, Kentucky and another store opened in 1967 in Prestonsburg, Kentucky.
While the company continued to grow another approach to growth was used with the acquisition of Quality Foods in 1984. This was a 19-store chain that operated under the Food City name. There was also something special about this company, it was founded in 1918. The Smiths adopted Food City as the new nameplate. With this came the heritage which was much older than K-VA-T itself.
Food City in 1989 bought 43-store chain White Stores which had headquarters in Knoxville, Tennessee. This more than doubled the size of Food City. More acquisitions followed with the purchase of Kennedy Piggly Wiggly in 1998 and full control of Mid-Mountain Foods which is the current K-VA-T distribution center.
Aside from acquisitions K-VA-T also opened new stores of its own. Then in April 2012, K-VA-T opened its first Food City Express food and fuel station in Coeburn, Virginia providing merchandise usually stocked in a convenience store. To further improve its offering K-VA-T, in August 2012 opened its first Food City Wine and Spirits liquor store, in Pikeville, Kentucky.
The company has also branched out into the pharmacy and fuel business. It has 75 pharmacies and 56 fuel stations. K-VA-T likes to point out its record of community involvement. It also partners with farmers in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee to bring local produce to its customers which helps local farmers and satisfies customer demands. The firm is an active NASCAR sponsor.
K-VA-T is still privately owned by the Smith family and around 14 percent owned by employees.