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Upscale grocer plans 4 shops

Four new Lowes Foods stores are in the works for Horry, Georgetown and Brunswick counties, the company confirmed Thursday.

The gourmet grocery chain plans two stores for the Myrtle Beach area, one for Murrells Inlet and one for Ocean Isle Beach, N.C.

All locations will include full-service deli, seafood, produce, bakery and floral departments, with extensive selections of beer and wine, gourmet groceries, and specialty foods, said company spokeswoman Dianne Blancato.

The two Lowes Foods stores planned to open in late 2007 will be 47,000 square feet: one at S.C. 544 and U.S. 17 Bypass and the other at S.C. 707 and Tournament Boulevard in Murrells Inlet, Blancato said.

The two stores that Blancato said will likely open in 2008, depending on construction and permitting, are a 49,000-square-foot building at U.S. 17 Bypass and 82nd Avenue North in Myrtle Beach and a 47,000-square-foot store in Ocean Isle Beach.

The announcement is the latest example of local grocers changing their focus to high-end customers and gourmet foods.

Food Lion will renovate 20 of its 25 grocery stores in the Grand Strand and Brunswick County, N.C., by Memorial Day, focusing on broader wine and beer selections and more international, specialty, fresh and organic foods.

A recently renovated Kroger store south of the front gate intersection in Myrtle Beach added a drive-through pharmacy, larger floral shop, expanded deli and bakery, full-service meat and seafood department, and an extensive alcohol selection earlier this year.

Piggly Wiggly has added several Grand Strand stores in recent years that are part of the chain's upscale grocery shopping experience.

Consumer studies back the aim to cater to high-end consumers, showing that the stores can best retain shoppers by offering increased food selection and better customer relations.

The Winston-Salem, N.C.-based chain opened its first Grand Strand location in July, the 42,000-square-foot Little River store. The company operates more than 100 stores in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

New Lowes stores

Opening in 2007:

47,000-square-foot store at S.C. 544 and U.S. 17 Bypass

47,000-square-foot store at S.C. 707 and Tournament Boulevard in Murrells Inlet

Opening in 2008

49,000-square-foot store at U.S. 17 Bypass and 82nd Avenue North in Myrtle Beach

47,000-square-foot store in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C.

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