Belle Foods in Hoover, Ala.

According to Grocery Headquarters Editor Richard Turcsik, it was the smell of slow-burning hickory that grabs shoppers’ attention when they walk through the doors of Belle Foods in Hoover, Ala.

Customers “line up for smoked ribs, chicken, pork and brisket,” he says, but it is more than just its smokehouse offerings that helps Belle stand out in its deep south market. The new banner offers high quality produce and outstanding service, offering an “exciting” shopping experience.

Here is a look at what makes Belle Foods live up to its name.

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Belle Foods corporate headquarters is on Lakeshore Parkway in Birmingham, Ala.

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It is the former headquarters of the old Bruno’s chain, which was legendary in supermarket circles for its innovation and merchandising ideas.

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Belle Foods flagship store is a former Bruno’s in the upscale Birmingham suburb of Hoover. It is across the street from the Riverchase Galleria, the largest shopping mall in the state.

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The name “Belle” was chosen because it means “beautiful.”

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Parking spaces outside the store are dedicated for “Caroline’s Cart” special needs individuals. Sponsored by Pepsi and Frito-Lay, cars with special needs passengers pull into the space, call the store and a Caroline’s Cart is brought out to them.

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Designed by a Belle Foods shopper, Caroline’s Cart features a heavy duty seat and handle bars that rise up and lock down, similar to those on a roller coaster.

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It’s a jungle in there.

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But the pretty flowers in Belle Foods’ floral department...

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...will snap anybody out of a blue mood.

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Belle Foods’ color scheme is a stark purple and green.

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It helps the chain’s new line of private label bread really stand out on the shelves.

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Bill White is the president, chief executive officer and founder of Belle Foods.

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One of Belle Foods most innovative services is the Belle Jr. child care center.

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It contains computer games.

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Board games.

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Legos.

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Monitors, such as this one above the deli counter, throughout the store allow parents to view their children while they shop.

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In Belle Foods deli the fried chicken is made only from fresh – never frozen – chicken pieces.

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A soda fountain was added to the deli to encourage shoppers to dine in-store.

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The Belle Smokehouse has been a hit with shoppers.

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The smoker (rear right) is ventless so the aroma of burning hickory waifs through the store, enticing appetites and taste buds.

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Ribs, pulled pork, chicken and brisket are all popular Belle Smokehouse items.

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Sides include Southern staples: mashed potatoes, collard greens, macaroni & cheese, fried okra and warm peach cobbler.

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Belle Foods is known for its Swiss Pastry Shoppe bakery department.

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The jumbo cookie sandwiches are really good!

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Gourmet cupcakes have mile-high frosting.

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A wide selection of Premium Pies are offered. The Key Lime is a specialty.

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Cakes and pies are also brought in from local vendors.

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Imagine having a spoon and digging into this fruit trifle!

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Or having a fork to delve into these fruit-topped, nut encased layer cakes!

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The Swiss Pastry Shoppe gets its fruit from the adjacent produce department.

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A sign informs shoppers how many organic items are featured each day. White says organics are slowly catching on in Belle’s Deep South operating area.

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Fresh Fruit is cut in-store.

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A cornerstone of produce is the Big Bunch Greens program, featuring collards, mustard greens, turnips and kale from family-owned farms in nearby Florida.

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While bulk greens are only $2.88 for a big bunch, many time-pressed shoppers opt for the chopped greens that are $3.98 for a big 2-lb. bag.

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A new program is Belle Foods Full Case Produce Discount Program. Marketed to restaurants, like Dairy Queen buying a case of bananas for banana splits, it offers a 20% discount, a price less than restaurants pay from their distributors.

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Belle Foods has stepped up its assortment of fresh seafood.

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Many meat items are sold by the piece.

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Marinated chicken legs are only a buck apiece.

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Beer and wine is big at Belle because the store borders on a county that does not allow Sunday liquor sales. The Build Your Own 6-Pack program is especially popular.

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Wine signs are color coded, with a white background for whites and a purple background for reds.

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Belle Foods is trying to win back market share by sharpening its prices. The Daybreak Deals program offers half-price specials on near-expiration products every morning.

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Web Specials drive shoppers to the store’s website. Recently they could have saved $2.00 off a gallon of milk by printing out a web coupon.

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Color-coded shelf tags denote gluten free, all natural, organic, carb smart, sugar aware and heart-healthy items.

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Under Belle’s Simply Found program, each aisle is divided into two numbers.

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Then a letter is applied to a run of gondolas. Cake mix is in Aisle 18-A, for example.

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Hot specials are identified with a Belle Ringer sign.

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