Winn-Dixie decided to check out of the Atlanta market The move leaves big holes to fill in six Gwinnett shopping centers, where the well-known grocery chain converted its stores to the discount-oriented SaveRite.

The locations where SaveRites are closing:

Lawrenceville, 1404 Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road, New Market Mall

Lawrenceville, 1575 Lawrenceville Highway, Mill Station Center

Lawrenceville, 850 Dogwood Road, 1998 Forks Village shopping center

Lilburn, at 4801 Lawrenceville Highway, Lilburn Marketplace shopping center

Norcross, 2055 Beaver Ruin Road, Indian Village Shopping Center

Norcross, 4770 Britt Road, Merchants Square Shopping Center

Winn-Dixie's decision could create more empty stores in places where vacant shopping centers were already a problem.

The Winn-Dixie announcement is a setback, said B.J. VanGundy, executive director of the Southwest Gwinnett Village Community Improvement Association. The group of Gwinnett business leaders, community activists and local store owners held its first official meeting last Tuesday to jump start efforts to return Jimmy Carter Boulevard to its heyday.

Now VanGundy and others have to find another anchor tenant for Merchants Square Shopping Center at Jimmy Carter and Britt Road. It's one of many retail centers battling vacancy and graffiti in recent years.

"Obviously we did not count on the Winn-Dixie decision," VanGundy said. "But that is a decision made by that company, and it is beyond our control."

Winn-Dixie will cut nearly 22,000 jobs, making it the second largest layoff this year behind GM.

Dentist wins Small Business Person of the Year

As Winn-Dixie dealt a blow to thousands of workers this past week, Dr. Bill Williams was honored by his.

Although Williams doesn't run a Fortune 500 firm, he won accolades for taking on supersized challenges. So impressed were his Gwinnett business peers that they gave the Suwanee dentist the top honor for a Gwinnett entrepreneur.

In front of a packed room of business and political leaders Monday, Williams accepted the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce Small Business Person of the Year award.

Williams launched Suwanee Dental in 1997 not long after selling his 23-year practice in Stone Mountain. His practice handles almost any kind of procedure in the book, from root canals to reconstruction. And he takes an annual dental mission to Kenya.

Doug Sams can be reached via e-mail at doug.sams@gwinnettdailypost.com.