The Alex Lee family of companies includes Merchants Distributors, Lowes Foods, Souto Foods, and W. Lee Flowers. Alex Lee grew out of Merchants Produce Company, which was founded in 1931 by Alex and Lee George. Alex and Lee were generous people who cared about both friends and strangers. Alex George, the entrepreneur, knew everyone's name and directed the warehouse operations. Lee George, the negotiator, was adept at procurement and sales, but was best known for his kindness. Their integrity, honesty, fairness, and loyalty earned them wide trust and great respect among both customers and employees. Alex and Lee believed in customer service and guided the company through good and bad times by focusing on how they could best serve the customer.
The tradition started by the two brothers continues today at the Alex Lee family of companies. Each of the Alex Lee companies has grown tremendously over the years by remaining committed to doing what's right for the customer.
Lowes Foods began in 1954 as a single store in North Wilkesboro, NC, and has grown to become a major supermarket chain operating in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. The company grew rapidly during the 1960s, '70s and early '80s. Lowes Foods was acquired by Merchants Distributors, Inc. (MDI) in 1984 and continued its expansion. Today Lowes Foods operates approximately 75 stores.
In 2013, Lowes Foods set out to break the mold of the standard supermarket and create a distinctive grocery shopping experience worthy of our Carolina roots. The development began with in depth consumer research and a series of overnight workshops designed to get the very best ideas from managers across all facets of the Lowes Foods, Merchants Distributors (MDI), and Alex Lee businesses. During these workshops, our new vision for Lowes Foods was born: “We grow community.” And, several new concepts were created including Chicken Kitchen, SausageWorks, Pick & Prep, and the Community Table. In January 2013, Lowes Foods re-opened the first store to offer the newly developed concepts in Clemmons, NC. And, the spark of innovation has led to continued development of new concepts to further differentiate our stores.
Merchants Distributors (MDI) is a privately-owned wholesale grocery store distributor headquartered in Hickory, NC. MDI supplies over 600 retail food stores with food and non-food items in 12 states along the East Coast.
MDI celebrated its 90th anniversary on September 21, 2021. MDI's over 90-year history is an interesting story of sacrifice, growth, and success. It began as a small family business in the 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, Alex and Lee, purchased in 1931 for $17,000 has since grown to become a multimillion-dollar wholesale grocery company that employs more than 1,700 workers in the Southeast.
Merchants Distributors is a great American success story. It is a company that has never forgotten its roots. Its success is based on its values and belief that for MDI to be successful, their customers and suppliers must also be successful.