Ralph W. Ketner: A Remarkable Life 1920 to 2016

Posted on May 30, 2016

Todd Paris, RFP Staff and Salisbury Attorney

♦ Ralph Ketner was the co-founder of the Food Town grocery chain that sprang from a single store in 1960’s Salisbury, North Carolina to become one of America’s largest grocery providers. Using his novel “Lowest Food Prices in North Carolina” (LFPINC), Ralph’s penny-pinching ways allowed him to beat the prices of most competitors (many of whom are no longer in business.)

Food Town was financed in the good old American way, with the founders basically going to everyone they knew and offering stock in the new business. Many of these folks were farmers and mill workers and people of modest means that trusted Ralph with often their life savings. By the time this chain’s name was changed to Food Lion and was sold to foreign investors, many of those small investors would become millionaires and multi-millionaires. During my last conversation with him, this seemed to be one of accomplishments he was proudest of.

Mr. Ketner gave back to the community in too many ways to list in this space. Most public spirited endeavors in this community can list him as a donor. When I last spoke to Ralph in 2015, his mind was still sharp and his prodigious talent for math was still amazing to observe. Still involved in the community, he was concerned over the cost for the airport runway expansion and had come up with a plan to save tax-payers millions. Hopefully, this was passed on to the County Commission.

Rowan County was much the richer for having known Mr. Ketner and much poorer with his loss. He was a good, honest, hardworking, and brilliant businessman who left this world better for his existence. We should all aspire to that.

The North Carolina History Project’s Bio on Ralph Ketner:


Posted in: Articles