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The History of Hill's Foodland

It all started on June 29, 1918 at 507 Twelfth Avenue, Phoenix City, Alabama where J.D. Hoyle Hill was born. A house with 12 children, seven sisters Vennie Leal, Amanda Obera, Luella Louise, Lizzie Viola, Lula Beatrice, Hattie May, and Helen Clara, and four brothers James Millard, Bert Wilson, Wallace Lyvert, and Earl Dean. His mother's name was Jessie Clara Worthy Hill of Marcoat, Alabama and his father's name was James David Hill of Truett, Alabama. They Lived in Phoenix City, Alabama, until his father's death in December 15, 1947. Then, his mother later went to Albany, Georgia where she died in February 10, 1968. Both parents are buried at Girard Cemetery, Phoenix City, Alabama. Later in life, J.D. changed his name to James David Hill, Jr. dropping the middle name of Hoyles and taking on his father's name.

Hills Foodland

As a young child he would go frog jigging and sell them to the local hotels. When J.D. was 18 years of age he married Ollie Black. J.D. helped Ollie's father run the country store in Valdosta Georgia with a farm outback. J.D. tried to plow the fields with an old retired race horse but the horse just wanted to run all the time. J.D. traded it for a mule that was ornery and old. J.D. did not like farming and told his father-in-law that he would be better at running the family store than plowing the fields. The store did not do very well, because J.D.'s heart was so good he let most of the customer's place the groceries on credit until he was broke and couldn't afford to buy the stock to sell.

So, he closed the little country farm store. He and Ollie went to live in Eufaula, Alabama. During this time, he helped an uncle run a small store. He learned from past experience that he couldn't give groceries on credit. Here is where his son James David Hill III was born in their home in the back of the store. During the next years ahead J.D. would find himself doing a number of odd jobs, such as selling books, pictures, vacuum cleaners and other items door to door.

Hills Foodland

J.D. served in the Army in the 1940's. He was a foot soldier waiting to invade Japan, but Japan surrendered. He later had problems with his feet and was put on bed rest. When he recovered from his problems he was placed in the mess hall and was put through cooking classes. He became one of the top cooks in the army and was promoted to Sergeant.

Hills Foodland

Once he got out of the army, he went to work for his uncle that would sneak him into a Liberty Supermarket on Sundays when the store was closed. There he learned to cut meat. J.D. then got a job with A & P Grocery store in the meat room but wasn't allowed to cut meat, only to be a clean-up boy. Later he got a job with Liberty Supermarket as a #2 butcher. His boss was always goofing off and not working. So, he was promoted as the market manager. He became highly respected as a meat butcher because of his ability to cut the best quality cuts of meat and to select beef on the hoof (live cattle). He would purchase local cattle from the ranchers around town at a low price to give his customers a better price. Because of the great job he was doing with Liberty Supermarket, Associated Grocers of Alabama came to him and offered him a job as a meat selector and buyer.

Hills Foodland

In the 1960's he married Kathleen and she helped to push him into renting his first store (Jiffy Food Mart) in Roebuck, Alabama. The rent was only $30.00 a month; but back in the 60's this was a lot of money. He and Kathleen lived outback of the store in a silver travel trailer that they purchased; this would be home for a couple of years.

The store was doing well, but J.D. had to get a second job. He and Kathleen had hired too many family members to work at the small convenience store. J.D. found himself back at Liberty Supermarket as a market manager and butcher. He got up in the morning and went to work as a butcher, while Kathleen opened the store. Then once he got off of work with Liberty Supermarket, he would work at his Jiffy Food Mart until closing. He then opened another convenient store in Mt. Olive as Jiffy Food Mart #2. Not long after that he would open Jiffy Food Mart #3 in Hillview.

Friends told him about a store (Winn Dixie) in Pleasant Grove that was going to be closing. He was convinced to open the store the same month that Winn Dixie closed. This location had been a Hill's Grocery before Winn Dixie bought them out in 1964. J.D. got his sister Helen and brother Wallace to invest in the opening of Hill's Food Center in Pleasant Grove. He opened the store in May of 1972 with very little on the shelf and the help of Margaret Watson and others of Associated Grocers of Alabama. They all helped with the Grand Opening Sale in July 1972. J.D. was the owner and general manager, his son David was the market manager, John Baggett was the grocery manager and Roy Thornberry was the produce manager. The store did not turn a profit the first year, nor the second year.

Hills Foodland

After the first year, Helen and Wallace wanted their investment money back because they didn't think the store would stay open with such low sales. So, J.D. was able to get a small loan from Colonial Bank to pay them back. J.D. continued to run the store with all his heart and soul. The rent was 10% of the sales. Due to such low sales, the rent wasn't enough for the owner of the shopping center. The owner of the shopping center, Mr. Clayton, wanted more rent from J.D. Instead of paying more rent, J.D. was able to purchase the shopping center. He received a loan from SouthTrust Bank at prime rate. At the end of the 3rd year, sales started up and continued to go up over the next several years. He added on to the side of the store around 1985. This was the only way he could receive a tracker trailer load of soft drinks to get a better price. More additions came to the front of the store around 1988. In 1990, a large storage room was added above the building next to the store. This was so he could start purchasing truck loads of paper products direct from the manufacturers and other companies. J.D.'s son, James David Hill, III (known as David), started running the store around this time period, because J.D. wanted to start traveling. In January 2004, David retired and his son John David Hill purchased the store. Today, Hill's Foodland is being operated by John David, owner and general manager with the help of other family members.

Hills Foodland

J.D.'s wife Kathleen Hill passed away in January, 2001. He remarried in June of 2001 to Beatrice Maddox from Texas. J.D. and Bea traveled back and forth the next four years between homes to be with their families. J.D. was always involved in the stores operations until his death on December 16, 2005.


Hills Foodland

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