ROCKINGHAM — As one supermarket prepares to open on U.S. 74, another is set to close with Food King shutting its doors for good.
Owner Bryan Dozier told the Daily Journal Thursday that he anticipates the grocery store will close either on Friday or Saturday next week, depending on how much product is left after its 25-percent-off sale that’s currently going on.
“It’s lost money the last three years, and it’s lost more each year,” said Dozier. “We opened it in 1972 — one of the last stores my dad opened — so I kept it open longer than I should have out of sentimental value. There are eight or nine supermarkets in Rockingham with another one coming, and it had just gotten less profitable.”
Dozier added that Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, aid had been cut back over the last four or five years and a majority of its customers benefiting from the government assistance was another reason for the Rockingham location’s closing.
Dozier — who also has stores in Mount Gilead, Biscoe, Troy and Ellerbe as the owner of Montgomery Foods Inc. — said the location in Ellerbe would remain open, mainly because of a lack of competition in the northern end of the county.
“That one is one of our better stores,” he said. “There’s a Dollar General and Family Dollar store right there, but there aren’t nine supermarkets in Ellerbe.”
Debbie Knight, who is the programs director for Leath Memorial Library, said one of the best things about Food King’s location is the convenience for those that live and work downtown. She added that the store was always willing to help when it came to donating cookies and snacks for the summer reading program.
“I love Food Lion, and I love Walmart, but when you deal with those people you have to fill out forms and give them your 501(c) (3), but I can walk into Food King and say, ‘I need two boxes of cookies for story time today, can you give them to me?’ and they would,” said Knight.
But Knight said it’s those who walk to the store that could be affected the most.
“They’re either gonna have to walk to Food Lion or figure out how to get to Walmart now,” she said. “There is a large section of this community that lives within five blocks that walk to Food King everyday.
“It’s gonna be devastating to this community ‘cause you’re gonna say, ‘How do they get there?’ If they ain’t got a ride, you’re gonna have to walk further,” she continued. “So there’s a lot of people between the housing authority on both ends of town — Armstead Street and all that — and then you’ve got all the people that live up on Robinson Street and Steele Street that walk to that place cause they don’t have rides, so what are they gonna do now? If they don’t own a vehicle, where are they gonna buy groceries?
Knight said some people complain because it’s not the “neatest-looking store or the cleanest store,” but added appearance isn’t what it’s about.
“It’s about hometown, and you don’t have to go through a large chain to get what you need,” she said. “It’s that personal touch that’s gonna be missing now.
For Dozier, however, it’s those large chains that have essentially put his Rockingham location out of business.
“We’ve had a lot of really good customers and really good employees,” he said. “It just had to be a business decision. Too many stores for too small a town.”
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-817-2674 and follow him on Twitter @mattyharrelson.