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Townspeople band together to save their grocery store

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Posted: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 12:16 pm

YORK - Small-town residents know what a good thing it is to have their own grocery store.

Not only is there the convenience of being able to go down the street for groceries, there's also the sense of community and fulfillment having its own grocery store brings to a town.

That's why when a group of Henderson residents heard about the imminent closing of the Henderson Food Mart, they decided to do something about it.

"We got wind of it possibly closing in August," Norm Yoder said.

Yoder and four other people make up a group called the Henderson Investors, an investment group in Henderson.

The group discussed the grocery store closing and what their options might be.

"We talked to a number of people asking if they would help support it," Yoder said.

Before they decided whether or not to go ahead and purchase the store, they needed to find someone who had experience working in a grocery store.

"None of us had experience in that area so that's why we knew it was important to find someone who knew what they were doing," Yoder said.

That's when they found Stannette Spickelmier.

Spickelmier, a new Henderson resident, had previously worked in the grocery store business for 16 years.

"I wasn't really looking for a job," Spickelmier said. "I didn't realize I would ever be back in the grocery business. It just kind of worked out that way."

Spickelmier was chosen to manage the store with Donna Bankston as the assistant manager.

Once they had their store manager, the group approached the Food Mart owners with an offer.

"It was contingent on getting enough investors," Yoder said.

When a price was agreed on, the group went to work finding investors.

Their goal was 30 investors and they ended up with 35. In fact, they're still having people approach them, asking to invest.

Once they took possession on Nov. 30, it was full speed ahead.

They wanted the store to be up and running as quickly as possible.

Their first night of ownership was spent doing inventory.

When that was finished, beginning at 5:30 a.m., volunteers began taking all of the products and shelving out of the store.

They had it all out by 9:30 p.m. that day.

"We had tremendous help from our volunteers," Yoder said.

"We had both investors and non-investors show up to help," fellow group member Jim Mestl said.

Once all of the shelving and product were out, the old asbestos tile flooring was taken out, new flooring put in and the walls were painted by the next Saturday.

The store reopened on Dec. 14.

The positive response from the community has been huge.

"We've had a very positive response," Mestl said. "I think that was shown just by the people who helped out who weren't even investors."

The plans for the store are numerous with some short-term goals and others of a more long term nature.

Short term, they're planning on upgrading the computer system for checking out customers and purchasing a new produce cooler.

A little further down the road, they hope to have pop, cappuccino and coffee machines in the front of the store.

They also want to bring bakery items back and sell Hunt Brother's Pizza.

The group doesn't plan on owning the store forever. Their hope is to help someone get started running it and then eventually have that person buy it from them and continue running it, Yoder said.

When asked about their reasons for wanting to keep the grocery store open, they have a couple.

"We've learned that when a small community loses its grocery store, its property value drops," Yoder said.

"The grocery store is one of the main retail outlets in town," Mestl added. "We want to keep it open and make it a place people want to shop."

"Our goal is to be a service to the community," Yoder said.

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