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Gene Lawrence in character as "Farmer Gene"

Super Foods celebrates 50 years

By Michael Butler

The year was 1967. The Green Bay Packers had won the first Super Bowl. The Beatles had just recorded, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Man was still a few years away from stepping foot on the moon.

Norris Watson and his son-in-law, Gene Lawrence, were about to take a giant leap of their own with a brand new supermarket in Tallassee.

Big Bear, which we know today as Super Foods, was beginning year one of what has become a 50-year staple for grocery shoppers in Central Alabama.

The store was originally corporate-owned by wholesaler Hudson Thompson. Watson was the store manager. Lawrence was the produce manager. The family purchased the business shortly after it opened in ’67. The foundation for three generations of family ownership was just beginning.

David Lawrence has been a part of the business his entire life and runs the daily operations today.
“Although I spent most of my life working at the store, in 1989 I became an actual employee at age 15.  After graduating from Troy University, I became a part of the leadership team,” he said.

“My family had fallen in love with Tallassee,” David said of the decision 50 years ago to go all in with a startup business.  “The store was owned and operated by our family as Big Bear until 1972 when we added the Super Foods Supermarkets name. At that time, we remodeled the store to provide additional space for new products and offerings. In 1987, we had another remodel that doubled the size of the store, adding even more value to our customers.”

David Lawrence

Over five decades much has changed including not only the name but a move and additional location.

“Our desire continued to grow for a second location to serve our patrons and in August of 2010 we opened East Tallassee Super Foods on Notasulga Road,” David noted. “As both locations continued to grow, the need for a larger store in Tallassee was evident. In March of 2013 the original store was moved to its current location in the Hampton Place Shopping Center.”

Super Foods has given back to the community in so many ways including; car shows, pancake suppers, school sponsorships, feeding athletes, band concerts, hosting church events and numerous donations to various community groups.

David and all the Lawrence’s are thankful to the community that has supported them as well.

“Our family is extremely grateful for the support and love we have felt since moving to Tallassee in 1967. When “Papaw” first visited Tallassee, he fell in love with the town. My family made their home here and my dad has always said he considers the people we serve to be the salt of the earth. Having grown up here I certainly agree.”

*Photos courtesy of David Lawrence

Groundbreaking 1967

The Brand New Big Bear in 1967

Newly Expanded Super Foods in 1987

East Tallassee Store

Hampton Place Location

Norris Watson

Gene Lawrence

Bobby Gresham

Ricky McCord

Staff in the early 1990s

Meat Department in 1972

Tallassee High School Band Concert, circa 1990

David and brother Ed with Travis Bryant

David with members of the National Guard

Gary Norrell and Gene Lawrence with friends

Hotdog Eating Competition

Community Fundraiser with the Tallassee Police Department in late 1980s

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