For over 30 years, Mike Long has worked in some way at the grocery store in downtown Pineville that carries his last name. After all, his father opened it.
“We have about 60 employees,” he said, “and we pride ourselves on being a strong part of our community. Part of that is putting money back into the business and staying up with trends so we’re still here for another 30 years.”
Grocery stores - Long’s Pic-Pac included - seem like they’re a pretty simple endeavor; aisles of shelves hold products that people buy. In fact, most people would never give a second thought to the intricacies of running a successful grocery store … but Long sure has.
Like any diligent business manager, Long keeps an eye open for ways to lower expenses each month, and one way he found to do that was through Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program.
Long used technical assistance from a strong Rural Development partner, Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, to apply for and receive a REAP grant, which was used to make a number of energy efficiency upgrades that have reduced his monthly energy costs by 10-15%.
One of the most immediately noticeable changes was the replacement of the fluorescent lights that ran perpendicular to the aisles and shelves with brighter LED lights that were placed parallel to and centered over the aisles. Not only do the LED lights use less energy, their improved placement eliminates dark patches and provides much better light to the shelves from bottom to top.
Gone are many of the open produce coolers; in their place are coolers with doors and motion-activated lights. The doors help to cut down on waste while the new lighting setup saves energy by only coming on when a customer is nearby.
Customers may not have noticed the older freezer compressors getting in the way or the vertical bar separating the double doors, but both get in the way and make it harder for customers to find and pick out what they want. The new freezers do away with both of those and feature motion-activated lights to help conserve energy.
“We really appreciate this opportunity to use a Rural Development grant to better our bottom line,” Long said. “We’re looking at other ways to improve our energy efficiency even more.”