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Farmer's Foods to close city store
Farmer’s Foods, at the intersection of Clearview and Northside drives, will close, a store official said Wednesday. The store is a victim of the area’s slow economy, combined with the weekend power failure. (Bulletin photo)
Thursday, July 5, 2012
By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff Writer
Farmer’s Foods will close its Martinsville store — probably within two weeks — as it falls victim to the area’s slow economy and the weekend power failure, the company’s chief operating officer said Wednesday.
COO Buster Madison said the store will close for two reasons: The area’s slow economy prevented it from gaining a solid sales base, and last weekend’s power failure meant the store would have had to replace all its refrigerated products: meats, dairy and so on.
As a result, store officials had to decide whether to invest more money in the store to replenish its inventory knowing the store was not succeeding as they had hoped, Madison said.
The decision was made, and “we’re in the sad process of closing the store,” he added.
The store opened in September in the former Taylor’s Supermarket at the intersection of Clearview and Northside drives in Martinsville. Farmer’s Foods is based in Chase City and has eight other stores.
The Martinsville store lost electricity around 10 p.m. Friday when a wind storm moved through the area and the entire city was without power. Service was restored late Saturday afternoon, but by then it was too late, Madison said.
“When it’s 100 degrees outside and you have no air conditioning, it doesn’t take long for products to reach unsafe temperatures,” he said.
This was the first time a Farmer’s Foods store has experienced a power failure of that magnitude, and finding a generator that could have kept the electricity running was not an option, he said.
The store has “checked and checked” its refrigerated products, “but we can’t take a chance” on selling possibly spoiled food, Madison said.
The store has insurance, he said, but the cost of replenishing the store’s shelves also would have involved a lot of labor. He added that he did not know the magnitude of the dollar loss from lost products.
That loss was compounded by the store’s inability to gain a solid sales base, Madison said.
“I attribute that only to the local economy,” he said. “Everywhere we go we compete well with large box stores — Food Lion, Kroger. Unfortunately, Martinsville seems to be suffering with higher unemployment than in most locations.”
Martinsville has been among the localities with the highest unemployment rates in Virginia for several years.
Madison said the local Farmer’s Foods employs about 20 to 25 full- and part-time employees.
“We are doing our best to move employees who want to move,” possibly to Farmer’s Foods stores in South Boston and Kenbridge in Virginia, he said. “We hope some will choose to go.”
The decision to close the store was difficult, he said.
“We realize fully we are dealing with people’s livelihoods. It’s heartbreaking,” he added. “With something like this, everybody loses — vendors, employees — everybody loses.”
No date has been set for the closing, Madison said, because it will depend on how quickly the store’s inventory can be sold. A sale is under way now, and some inventory will be moved to other Farmer’s Foods stores, he said, adding that normally it takes about two weeks to clear the shelves.
The property is owned by The Lester Group, and Farmer’s Foods has a five-year lease on the building, according to reports when it opened. Madison said Wednesday that it can sublease the building with approval from The Lester Group, and Farmer’s Foods will work with Lester to try to do that.
“It would be thrilling to find another tenant who wants to go there,” Madison said. “It would be ideal for an individual-owned grocery store. I’m not sure they could do anything differently than what we did, but sometimes an on-site owner has the ability to build loyalty” among local customers.