April 24, 2014

Elyria
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Oberlin grocery closing its doors

OBERLIN — Shelle Shumate Shepherd walked into Missler’s Super Valu on Friday for a breakfast snack and was on her way within five minutes. She couldn’t be in-and-out so quickly at the new Wal-Mart down the street, where dozens of cars clogged the mammoth parking lot.

But her quick stops at Missler’s at 291 S. Main St. soon are coming to an end.

Store owner Rick Geyer said the store is closing at the end of the month, in part because of competition from the recently opened Wal-Mart about a half-mile south at state Route 58 and U.S. Route 20.

CHUCK HUMEL /CHRONICLE
Shelle Shumate Shepherd, a regular customer of Missler’s grocery on South Main Street in Oberlin, stands outside the soon-to-be-closed store last week.

“We don’t have enough sales to stay open,” Geyer said. “Our losses are greater being open than closed.”
Geyer’s Crestline-based company operates seven supermarkets, three Save-A-Lot stores and two other small businesses in northern Ohio.

Even before the arrival of Wal-Mart, the Oberlin store had been “underperforming” for some time, he said.

Customers such as Shepherd said it will be a considerable loss. Each had their favorite item, whether it was the fresh-baked bread, the brands carried by Missler’s or the meat cut just the way they liked it.

Shepherd said she became a fan of the store when it was owned by Andy Missler, and her loyalty continued under Geyer, who purchased it in 2003.

Missler is a wonderful person who gave a second chance to people who had a blemish in their past, she said.

“If someone missed a step, he would still hire them,” Shepherd said.

She said Wal-Mart is open all the time, and some of her friends work there, but it just won’t be the same as going to Missler’s.

Other loyal customers also said they would miss the convenience of the brick store a couple blocks south of downtown.

It is so close to town that students from Oberlin College can walk to the store and lug their groceries back to their dormitories and apartments.

Several other residents also arrived on foot or bicycle Friday, including Doris Palmer, 63.

“I do this for exercise,” said Palmer, who walked from nearby East Vine Street. “I knew (the closing) was going to happen, but I didn’t think it would happen so soon.”

Palmer said she likes Wal-Mart, but she will be a little less independent because her daughter has to drive her there.

Friendly staff is what compelled Glen Gerscacker of Henrietta Township to drive eight miles to Missler’s every week.

“I like the store real well,” said Gerscacker, 88. “The gal who takes my money isn’t upset, and they’re all so nice.”

Missler’s manager and other employees declined to give their names but said they will miss the customers, too.

“Mostly it’s the people I’ll miss,” said the manager, a smiling woman who welcomed those shopping on Friday. “We have one guy who comes in and every time he has a joke for us — something sweet like, ‘Do you want to hear a dirty joke? — The pig fell in the mud.’ ”

Stock will be discounted 20 percent beginning today, and deeper discounts may follow if stock remains. 

Geyer said he will offer transfer opportunities to some of the 20 or so employees at Missler’s.

“It is very difficult to make these decisions as it affects employees and many dedicated customers,” he said.

Still, he’s not bitter about Wal-Mart’s impact on the business.

“I’m better than that,” said Geyer, whose family has been in the food business since 1955.
“They’re running a company that’s the largest in the world,” Geyer said. “Who am I to question their success?”

Contact Cindy Leise at 653-6250 or cleise@chroniclet.com.