Hicks-Chiks opens Ferriday retail location

Published 12:03 am Sunday, May 15, 2016

FERRIDAY — The Natchez-based food distributor that has operated out of the same address on Martin Luther King Jr. Road in Adams County for more than 70 years has now opened a second retail location in Ferriday.

J.E. Hicks Distributing Company — which also brands itself Hicks-Chiks — opened its second location at 700 Louisiana Ave. in Ferriday the first week of May.

While the company will continue to operate its food service supply business and showroom in Natchez, the Ferriday operation will act similar to a wholesale grocer.

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“We are going to operate here like a cash-and-carry,” said Morgan Mizell, who is helping run the Hicks-Chiks Ferriday location.

“On the items we can, we are trying to break down the items that we can sell individually. In Natchez, we are strictly a case packed and bulk wholesale distributor, and here we are trying to be a little more flexible with what we are doing. We are trying to be really beneficial to the customer as whole.”

Mizell said customers could think of the new location as a “baby Sam’s Club” without the membership requirement, except, “We are a local, homegrown company here to serve the community in the area of grocery business.”

Going in, customers can walk up to the register, tell the workers what they want and wait while Hicks-Chiks employees retrieve the items from the 16 by 20 foot freezer.

In addition to selling the bulk food items, Hicks-Chiks will also sell the pre-made casseroles that are available from its Natchez showroom.

Hicks-Chiks Chief Operating Officer John Hicks III said expanding into the Ferriday area approximately five years after Hicks-Chiks opened its first showroom in Natchez made sense because its truck routes already came through Ferriday and the company already received a substantial amount of Louisiana business already.

“There are not a lot of grocery stores over here already, and two weeks after we purchased the building, Grocery Depot announced its closure,” he said.

“A lot of people over here don’t have transportation, they walk, and we are right in the middle of town, so it is a good fit for people right in the middle of town needing to purchase food.”

Mizell said the new location is a way to meet many of the Hicks-Chiks showroom customers in the middle.

“We had a lot of people coming from this area — Harrisonburg, Sicily Island, even Jena — to Natchez, so we were trying to come to them a little more, to be a little friendlier to this area, because we do have a lot of people who come out to our little building out on Martin Luther King Jr. Road in the country,” she said.

“This is a win-win for everybody. It’s an expansion for our company and a mid-point for all the people who come to Natchez, and is something this community needs.”

The Hicks-Chiks Ferriday location is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The showroom in the Natchez location was originally started to help keep employees on the clock to fill the afternoon lull between distribution shipping, but since the Ferriday location is not a distribution point, the 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. hours don’t make sense, Hicks said.

“Those hours don’t really fit retail type hours, and people had trouble getting out there before 3 p.m. and picking things up,” he said.

“I wanted to be open until 6 p.m. so I could provide that need for somebody who wanted to run in and grab a casserole, a box of hamburgers, chicken tenders, corn dogs or whatever, and I thought it would be a good fit for the different people who go to the different lakes. People show up at the last minute and what do they expect to do? Eat, most of the time.”

The Natchez showroom will remain open.

J.E. Hicks Distributing started in 1945 as a meat supplier before expanding into a chicken and hog processing plant. Its trucks and branding as Hicks-Chiks still hearken to those days, though the company no longer processes animals.

Through the years, the company shifted its focus until settling into restaurant and convenience station supply, adding a new warehouse in 1993 and the wholesale showroom in 2011.

Hicks said since opening the Ferriday store, he’s already had people ask him where the next location will be.

“The people over here have been nothing but nice. It has been awesome, and we have been welcomed,” he said. “We want to get involved with the community and provide a need for them. I am proud of my employees and want to keep up the good name that my grandfather started in 1945.”

The Hicks-Chiks Ferriday location can be reached by phone at 505-445-8140.