Downtown grocery closing costs elderly residents a cherished independence
When Lebanon Village Market closed its doors last week, the losses extended beyond the owner who said goodbye to his dream and the workers who lost their paychecks.
The community of elderly residents who live across Colburn Park from the grocery store also lost a vital part of their independence.
Residents of Rogers House cherished being able to walk — sometimes with help from walkers — across the downtown green to buy milk, vegetables, sandwiches and their monthly community birthday cake.
“That’s the best store we ever had,” said Dan Griswold, a 79-year-old retired maintenance man who’s lived in the senior apartment building for eight years.
“We fought like crazy to get that store in here,” added Pearl Corrigan, a 92-year-old retired property manager.
“And now, we’ve lost it,” said Griswold.
When Butson’s grocery closed in 2003 in its location next to the firehouse, residents and city officials decried the loss of downtown’t only full-service grocery store. While Lebanon has a plethora of big chain stores — Price Chopper, Hannaford and Shaws — they’re all a car, bus or taxi ride away.
That’s a particular problem for the Rogers House residents who lack access to vehicles or struggle with getting on and off buses. They joined other residents and city officials in pushing for another store to open in Butson’s old building.
Nearly 13 years ago, Ritch Bill and an investment partner granted their wish. But last Friday, Bill confirmed the worries of many and closed the store for good.
Griswold said he knew of the closure before the store actually locked its doors. How? He had been asking about the birthday cake the store supplied each month — at a friendly discount — for Rogers House residents to celebrate their neighbors’ birthdays.
“A girl over there told me we weren’t going to be able to get the birthday cake anymore,” Griswold said as he and fellow residents sat on the Rogers House porch while Bill emptied merchandise from the store just across the way. “That’s how I found out it was going down.”
Bill told DailyUV.com that it had been a struggle to make ends meet “since day one.” He hung in there for nearly 13 years, but in the end, a “huge” shoplifting problem, unreliable workers and customers who took much of their business to other stores did him in, said the owner.
Aside from missing the convenience of the store, the Rogers House porch-sitters said they will miss many of the store’s offerings.
“They had the best meats in town,” said Griswold.
“They had very good Italian sandwiches,” said Corrigan.
Griswold said, "We need a store here in town."