Stickin' with the Pig: A Tale of Loyalty and Loss

Tony Bartelme

Piggly Wiggly grocery stores and the smiling-pig logo are an iconic brand, especially in the South. The collapse of Piggly Wiggly Carolina, the largest franchise operator of Piggly Wiggly stores in the country, was a jarring blow to the hundreds of employees loyal to The Pig and its family-friendly ownership. These workers not only lost their jobs and their sense of community, according to reporter Tony Bartelme’s feature article “Stickin’ with The Pig” in The Post and Courier, but they also ended up losing much of their retirement savings that they had accumulated via the company’s employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). Meanwhile, many former employees were shocked to discover that senior executives and insiders had enriched themselves, at the expense of the company and the ESOP, through a series of real estate transactions that gutted the organization. (The two sides are now involved in a class action lawsuit.) To tell this compellingly readable story of loss and betrayal, Bartelme interviewed more than 50 former Piggy Wiggly employees, as well as grocery and real estate industry experts, and used federal open records laws to obtain financial forms and audits filed by Piggly Wiggly since the 1990s. The newspaper augmented the online version of the story with interactive timelines and videos.

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