This little-known grocery store is one of the South's best kept secrets.

By Michelle Darrisaw
September 19, 2017

We're the biggest champions of our Southern supermarkets. From Publix and Aldi to Winn-Dixie and Piggly Wiggly, you won't find a group of people above the Mason-Dixon line more passionate about their hometown grocers. But shoppers across the southeastern region have one claim to fame that rivals any Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, particularly when it comes to prepared foods and discounts: Harris Teeter.

The supermarket chain was founded in Matthews, North Carolina (just outside of Charlotte), in 1936 by William Thomas Harris and Willis L. Teeter. And it's been keeping loyal customers happy for nearly 81 years. Where else can you score free cookies and delicious sushi, while being waved off by a dragon mascot? Yeah, we're drawing a blank here, too. Read on to discover what Southerners, especially those in the Tar Heel State, have always known about this neighborhood gem.

1. You can only find a store in the South

Although Harris Teeter has approximately 243 stores, you can only shop there if you live in the following seven states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Despite being acquired by Kroger in 2013, the supermarket kept its name and A+ Harris Teeter brands that repeat customers have come to love.

2. It gives Whole Foods a run for its money in prepared foods.

Looking for a quick dinner or side? You can stop in Harris Teeter for a tasty bite at a fraction of the cost. Sushi, pizza, soup, and salad are all on the menu.

3. You can order your groceries online.

Just as Walmart was adding its curbside grocery pickup, Harris Teeter was making it even more convenient for customers through its Expresslane shopping service. Not only can you order groceries online for pickup like at Walmart, but you can also have them delivered for a fee or with a subscription.

4. You'll find quality wine here on a budget.

Good grocery-store wine is hard to find, but thanks to Harris Teeter's wide selection, you'll have no problem procuring a bottle of white or red at various price points. Let's raise a glass to that.

5. The rewards card program is soooo worth it.

To get all the great discounts at Harris Teeter, you'll need a VIC card and to be a member of of the e-VIC program. You'll receive alerts when regularly purchased items go on sale, and you can also link manufacturer coupons directly onto your card for a faster checkout experience. Every week, the grocery store sends emails to shoppers, highlighting an item of the week, offering coupons and member-only discounts, and allowing customers to enter into different sweepstakes. Students also receive an extra 5 percent off groceries while they're enrolled in school.

6. Cheers to this popular soda!

You'll find this cherry-infused, carbonated drink at Harris Teeter: Cheerwine—a bubbly hybrid that tastes similar to Dr. Pepper or Cherry Coke, only so much more flavorful. Trust us, you'll want to buy it by the caseload.

7. It supports members of the military.

If you've served in the military, specific locations have reserved parking spots for vets. Because our brave servicemen and women shouldn't have to circle the parking lot.

8. Harry the Happy Dragon occasionally makes in-store appearances.

Nothing like a warm hug from Harry the Happy Dragon on your way in or out of the store. The green dragon has been around since 1992, offering fire-breathing smiles to kids for its Together in Education program.

9. Oh, and did we mention free cookies?

Another thing Harry the Happy Dragon is known for is his famous cookie stand in the bakery section. Grab a regular or low-fat sugar cookie as a personal (and delicious) form of gratitude for shopping at Harris Teeter.