With the Philadelphia market already brimming with grocery stores and still adjusting to the recent addition of meat, vegetable, and dairy aisles to Target and Wal-Mart outlets, now another competitor wants your shopping allegiance.

Bottom Dollar Food, a discount grocer based in Salisbury, N.C., announced plans Wednesday to open at least 17 stores in Philadelphia and the surrounding Pennsylvania and New Jersey suburbs, starting this fall. An additional four are planned in Allentown and Reading. The expansion will create 600 jobs locally, the company said.

Bottom Dollar has 28 stores in North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland.

"We think the Philadelphia market offers great opportunity for us," said company president Meg Ham.

She is going to need a good bit of fortitude, said Jeff Metzger, publisher of industry publication Food Trade News. "I think it's going to be a challenge for them to gain significant share around Philly - a very over-stored field," Metzger said.

The "extreme value" category where Bottom Dollar fits already has "a fairly significant presence" in this market, represented by Sav-a-Lot and Aldi Inc., each of which is adding stores, Metzger said.

"Like any other retailing business, when you're the last guy in, you're not going to get the best locations," he said.

Many of the locations Bottom Dollar has selected here are in older shopping centers in so-called first-generation suburbs. They include Bensalem, King of Prussia, Lansdowne, Penndel, Pottstown, and Willow Grove. Others will be near Chalfont, Coatesville, Downingtown, and Norristown, and in Montgomeryville, Lower Southampton, Turnersville, and Marlton.

The Philadelphia stores will be on Broad Street at Godfrey Avenue, in the Krewstown Shopping Center, and in Penrose Park Plaza.

They will be "great boons to struggling landlords that had empty spaces in the size that we would call 'junior anchor,' " said Steven H. Gartner, president of Metro Commercial Real Estate Inc. "That's been a rare occurrence - to have a new-to-the-market retailer come into the Delaware Valley of any type. So it's like a little blessing for landlords."

Shoppers will find it a joy, too, Ham insisted.

With a typical sales area of 13,000 square feet - more conventional grocery stores are closer to 40,000 square feet - Bottom Dollar stores are "cozy," Ham said. Smaller sales area also means "a more limited assortment" of goods, she acknowledged. Those choices include national brands and private-label products.

The chain says it is able to offer low prices by managing expenses and improving efficiencies, including using a variety of shelving and stocking techniques. The produce cooler, for instance, is a walk-in refrigerator.

Bottom Dollar's parent company is Delhaize America Inc., which also operates the Food Lion grocery chain popular further south.

The parent, in turn, is owned by Belgian retailer Delhaize Group. The first Bottom Dollar store opened in High Point, N.C., in September 2005.