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Owen's South to close in 30 days

CLOSING SOON: Owen’s Market Southis the only store on the south side of Huntington, and the property has always been a grocery store. The building wasformerly occupiedby Bob’s Finer Foods.

by Andrew Maciejewski - amaciejewski@h-ponline.com

Owen’s Market South will close in 29 days, according to Kroger’s corporate office.

Company leaders attribute the decision to the store’s ongoing poor performance and inability to return a reliable profit, but long-time customers don’t agree.

“I don’t think it was the money,” Kenny Bryant said. “I don’t think they weren’t making enough money to keep it open. It’s just greed.”

Shannon Leininger was also surprised by the decision, since she said she feels the employees provide the best customer service in town.

“I was not happy,” Leininger said. “I think it’s a very bad choice on the corporation’s part, but that’s kind of the scheme of America anymore.”

While Kroger Central Division public relations director Eric Halvorson said he’s not surprised by the community’s support of the store employees, he said all Kroger employees “strive to feed the human spirit.”

“Today’s announcement is definitely not a reflection on them or their concern for our customers ... I’m confident customers will find the same quality of service as they move their shopping to our other neighborhood Owen’s,” Halvorson wrote in an email to the Herald-Press.

Some of the 64 associates currently working there will be offered the opportunity to transfer to Kroger family stores in the region, according to the press release.

Owen’s North, located 3 miles away at 2718 Guilford St., will remain open.

Mayor Brooks Fetters said the decision surprised him, especially since his administration has made it a point to develop that end of town. The city recently saw a spike in new home construction last year, Horace Mann Elementary School reopened this year and the city invested money into street, pathway and sewer improvements on Etna Avenue.

“It’s just frustrating when it seems like a lot of your hard work doesn’t get rewarded the way you would like it to be.

“It’s very difficult news,” Fetters said. “I’m disappointed to be hearing his. I was not aware that these discussions were happening.”

Fetters said the company has not returned his calls or emails requesting further information on the decision to consolidate, but he said he will be exploring alternative grocery stores to fill the void.

“The south side of Huntington has got to have a grocery store, and I am committed to putting the full weight of the Mayor’s Office (into this) to make it happen,” he said.

Bryant said the closing worries him since he said the south side has been in decline throughout his lifetime and since Owen’s Market is the only grocery store serving the south side of the city.

“It was kind of shocking,” Bryant said. “You never expect it. Of course, just about every place in town is closed. There’s not much more over here than a Dollar Store and a Family Dollar. I don’t know what the old people who walk to the store are gonna do, but I’m sure they don’t give that no thought in there when they decided to close.”

Bryant said he sees elderly people who live at the nursing home behind Owen’s South walk to the store daily, and Leininger said it’s common for residents on the south side of town to walk there.

“I’m very unhappy with the decision to move all of the grocery stores to the other side of the highway,” she said. “I think it’s unsafe for a lot of people. There are a lot of people in this part of town that traverse via foot.”

Some customers at Owen’s South yesterday said they think Ace Hardware has plans to expand onto the property and buy the entire strip mall, but the Herald-Press has confirmed that Ace Hardware has not purchased any property and does not have current plans to expand, store manager Les Barker says.