One month after its grand opening, Bottom Dollar Foods manager Nader Himos walks through the store’s wide isles and greeted Sterling’s bargain shoppers. Himos passes by the grocery store’s employees wearing clever T-shirts and fluorescent orange and lime green signs.
"We’re known for our extremely low prices," Himos said.
On July 26, Bottom Dollar Foods moved to Sterling Park’s shopping center off of Sterling Boulevard. The bargain grocery store replaced the local Food Lion, which developed the brand.
Food Lion spokesperson Kimberly Blackburn said the Delhaize Group, which owns Food Lion, created Bottom Dollar Foods to tap into an under-served market.
"We’re trying to get shoppers the best prices on their groceries," she said.
Don’t let the name fool you, Himos said, the store offers shoppers fresh produce and brand name items. The only thing they don’t offer is a variety of items.
Bottom Dollar Foods is able to offer shoppers some of the lowest prices on produce and packaged items by cutting overhead costs, like offering a variety of brands of a single product, and asking customers to bag their own groceries.
ON THURSDAY, Bottom Dollar Foods employee Freddy Basquez, 19, restocked the store’s overflowing produce shelves in a lime green shirt. He placed bags of carrots under a "You Get What You Hardly Pay For" sign.
"It’s a lighthearted atmosphere," Blackburn said.
Behind him, Sterling resident Maria Lopez filled a plastic bag with ears of corn. She reached into a large bin marked "While Supplies Last."
Bottom Dollar Foods marks prices two ways, "Everyday Prices" and "While Supplies Last." Items marked "Everday Prices" guarantees customers the same prices for appropriately marked items every time they come back.
"If you come back next year, the New York strip steak will still be $4.69," Himos said. "Now rib eyes are on sale for $2.88 per pound while supplies last."
When Bottom Dollar Foods recognizes a good deal, Himos orders large quantities of it and marks them "While Supplies Last."
For example, Himos ordered large quantities of bananas for 38 cents per pound.
"You can’t get them for less," he said. "We have a bunch in the back."
In addition to cheap produce, Bottom Dollar Foods has a reputation for cheap prices on meat.
Purcellville resident Jerry Petrey stood in front of a wall of 79 cent Pepsi soda bottles with a meat-filled cart and a grocery list in his hands.
"I’m just checking it out," he said. "I just hope it’s quality."
Petrey traveled from the other side of the county to purchase meat products, like chicken wings and New York steak trips because his friend told him about the unusually low cost of expensive items, like steak.
"I’m just wondering why it’s so cheap," he said. "I guess I’ll find out."
Himos said he is able to offer his customers low prices on expensive meats because he buys sale items in bulk and cuts overhead costs.
AFTER THIRTY minutes of combing the isles, Lopez loaded her groceries on to a conveyer belt. Instead of purchasing a 5 cent plastic bag, she opted to load her groceries into a free cardboard box.
"I don’t mind," she said. "I’d rather pay less than have someone do this for me."
Aside from bagging, or boxing, one’s own groceries, Bottom Dollar Foods differs from Food Lion in a couple other ways. Food Lion offered customers 26,000 different items in the grocery department. Bottom Dollar Foods offer 6,700 items.
"It's a major cutback," Himos said.
The manager explained the new store offers only a few different brands on a variety of items. The freezer isles are still stocked with milk, yogurt and fruit juices, but Bottom Dollar Foods only offers the Food Lion brand and two or three popular brands. Customers have the option of purchasing Food Lion, Tropicana, Minute Maid and Simply Orange juices.
While the store offers little brand variety, it increased its international food section. The Sterling market expanded its Kosher, Asian and Hispanic food isles.
"The store is more diverse than it was," Himos said. "We're getting more Asians, Indians, Middle Easterners. We have a lot of Hispanic customers."
In addition to international foods, Himos highlighted the "99 cents of less section." The heart of the store is filled with children's toys, neck pillows and two-for-a-dollar greeting cards.
The new additions, Himos said, add to the store's personality.
"We hope it's an enjoyable experience," he said.