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General Foods replaces Hi-Lo at Liguanea

Published:Wednesday | January 20, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Hi-Lo supermarket will no longer occupy this spot in Liguanea Plaza, Liguanea, St Andrew.

The space in the Liguanea Plaza, which up to recently was occupied by the Hi-Lo Food Store, has been taken over by Tony and June Wong, who are expanding their north-coast grocery operation, General Foods Supermarket, into Kingston.

The Wongs own and operate the Liguanea Drug and Garden Centre inside the Liguanea Plaza. Tony Wong also told Wednesday Business that he is part owner of the plaza in partnership with four others, whom he declined to name.

Hi-Lo shuttered its store at the 135 Old Hope Road address, when its five-year lease of the 14,000 square feet premises expired on New Year's Eve. Both parties said the decision was amicable.

"From February last year negotiations have been ongoing - planning how they want to leave - so there is no question of being forced out," Wong told Wednesday Business.

Hi-Lo said it was reluctant to give up the location, saying it had been profitable for the now 14-store chain because of its centrality to surrounding dormitory communities such as Mona, Hope Pastures, Long Mountain, as well as other residential neighbourhoods.

Still: "It was an amicable separation," said Hi-Lo Food Stores General Manager, Andrea Coy. The GraceKennedy-owned chain is now looking for new space to take the network of stores back to 15, Coy said.

The second branch of the family-owned General Foods Supermarket will be opened by the end of this month, Wong has confirmed. The other operation is in Ocho Rios, St Ann.

Wong declined to say how much was being invested in the expansion.

"It is not a terrible amount of capital output because it is already there. It is not a new building or anything like that," he said. "All the logistics are there. It is a matter of putting in new inventory."

Coy said some assets at the location were sold to the Wongs but declined to disclose the price or specific assets involved. Some of the under 50 staff complement will be re-hired by Wong, while others will be redeployed to other Hi-Lo branches.

The Wongs say their business strategy will be price-driven, mimicking the store at Ocean Village Shopping Centre in Ocho Rios.

"The area is a very big one, they (customers) would like to see more variety in prices and service, and this is what the clients have been saying and we feel that we can give that," Wong said.

General Foods will be competing with Brooklyn Supermarket which opened a store across the street in Liguanea Lane Plaza last year, and the well-established Sovereign Supermarket.

Tony Wong ... to open a second business in Liguanea Plaza.