Alex Lee's more than 80 year history is an interesting story of sacrifice, growth, and success. It began as a small family business in the town of Hickory, North Carolina, and as one local newspaper described it, "with little more than a bag of peanuts, an apple, and a stick of candy." What Lebanese immigrant Moses George and his sons purchased in 1931 for $17,000 has since grown to become a multimillion-dollar grocery company that employs more than 10,000 people in the Southeast.
Alex Lee, Inc. was founded on the following basic values: Accountability, Communication, Excellence, Family, Frugality, Innovation, Integrity, Profitability, and Respect.
Alex, Lee, and Josephine George believed in customer service, and guided the company through good and bad times by determining how they could best serve the customer. Today, Boyd George, Lee's son, is the CEO of Alex Lee. Brian George became President of Alex Lee in 2011. Together with the current management team and employee force, Alex Lee, Inc. is prepared to continue their strong belief that Customers are the focus of everything we do.
In 1931, the Merchant's Produce Company was purchased by the George Family. Led by Moses George and his sons, Alex and Lee, the company set out to supply small, full service grocery stores. The young company had a warehouse of 5000 square feet, 12 employees, and 3 trucks. By 1938, the product line had expanded to the point that the name of the company was changed to Merchants Produce and Grocery Company.
The company continued to grow, and in 1956, to reflect its increased range of products, changed the name again to Merchants Distributors, Incorporated or MDI as it's known today. The facility went through many changes as the company grew over the next 31 years. A new distribution center was built in 1959. Four major additions were added to this facility.
In 1997, MDI moved into a larger distribution center of almost a million square feet. In 2001, an administrative office building was added to the MDI campus. In 1998, Alex Lee entered into a new third-party logistics and service provider called Consolidation Services which supplies an array of warehousing and distribution services, specializing in helping manufacturers ship product to retail.
In 1965, Alex and Lee George along with Norman James of The James Company formed Institution Food House, Inc. as a separate company to service restaurants and other institutions. The new foodservice company opened its doors with 14 employees drawn from the two prior companies. The company operated in the old MDI facility in Hickory. Soon the facility became too small to handle the expanding business, and in 1972 a new modern facility was completed.
IFH continued its rapid growth during the eighties by acquiring Brothers Foods in Dillon, South Carolina and the Thomas and Howard Company in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 1986, there was a fire that destroyed the Dillon Facility which was quickly replaced by the IFH Florence Distribution Center in Florence, South Carolina.
In 1997, when MDI moved to their new facility, IFH renovated the former MDI site to create a larger distribution center for IFH Hickory. In September of 2003, IFH entered into a new venture called IFH ChefSmart, a new retail concept that caters to the needs of businesses, non-profit organizations, and the general public alike. IFH's Florence Distribution Center began operations in a new expanded facility in March 2006. In 2012, Alex Lee, Inc. sold IFH to Performance Food Group.
Lowe's Food Stores, Inc. began in Wilkesboro, North Carolina in 1954 and was a customer of MDI. In March of 1984, MDI acquired Lowes Foods. With the support of MDI, Lowe's embarked on an aggressive expansion program and added a total of 19 stores by 1989. In the late eighties, Lowes Foods adopted the Vision Store concept, offering upscale customer service and quality and catered to a growing diverse population. This idea quickly proved itself and is still successful today. It was the forerunner of the Fresh Smart concept introduced in the nineties. A more dramatic expansion occurred in 1997 with the purchase of Byrds Food Stores in Eastern North Carolina. Lowes Foods introduced the "Lowe's-Foods-To-Go" concept in 1997, offering customers the opportunity to call-ahead or go online to place their grocery orders for pick up at the store.
The acquisitions of Lowes Foods and IFH by MDI created an integrated food distribution company, which in 1992, was named Alex Lee Incorporated in honor of its founders. Alex and Lee George were close to their customers and Alex Lee, Inc. carries on that tradition today.
The Alex Lee vision remains: We will be a progressive, profitable company that is always improving results and is recognized by its employees for providing opportunities to grow, both personally and professionally; appreciated by its customers and suppliers for providing quality products and services as efficiently as possible; respected by its communities for the value it and its employees add; and admired for its integrity.