Greencastle LoBills to close by Thanksgiving

Friday, October 20, 2006

Putnam County residents who buy their groceries at the Greencastle LoBill Foods will have to look elsewhere for their shopping needs starting next month.

On Thursday, officials with Marsh Supermarkets, owners of LoBill Foods, announced that Greencastle is among 16 Midwestern stores scheduled for closing by Thanksgiving.

According to its website, Indianapolis-based Marsh Supermarkets operates 67 Marsh grocery stores, 31 LoBill Foods, six O'Malia's markets, and 148 Village Pantry convenience stores in Indiana, Ohio and Illinois.

Faithful shoppers like Ancel Keller of Belle Union say they've been shopping at the Greencastle store since the beginning.

"I'm sad to hear about anything closing up," he said on his way out of the grocery store Thursday afternoon. "It puts people out of jobs."

Most of the people who spoke to the BannerGraphic on Thursday said they have been shopping at the store for years and were surprised to hear store staff talking about it in the check-out lines.

"Most of the shopping I've done has always been here," Greencastle resident Lola Hutson said. "I'm disappointed."

Others, like Michael O'Hair who drives down from Russellville to shop at least once a week, say they'll miss the people and the service they received at the store.

"I like this store. I think a lot of older people come here," O'Hair said. "And I like the people who work here because they're friendly and all."

Indianapolis media began reporting the news early Thursday morning and it quickly spread to employees and customers.

An employee of the Greencastle store told the BannerGraphic that she and other workers were called into the manager's office Thursday morning and notified of the closing.

Employees told the BannerGraphic that they were told the store would be closing for good on Nov. 11. Local store officials would not comment on the closing.

Meanwhile, Hutson says she is more concerned about those workers who will be losing their jobs than the loss of her preferred shopping place.

"For the rest of us, we'll find somewhere else to shop, but I feel bad for them," Hutson said of the employees. "This is bad for them."

In a statement issued to the news media, Marsh officials said the closings are necessary to "improve the company's financial performance."

They said the stores were not meeting their requirements regarding sales, location and future growth potential.

The company is interested in seeking buyers or tenants for the affected stores, according to a press release. Signs will be going up to inform customers of the closings in the coming days.

In a statement, Marsh CEO Frank Lazaran said, "The announcement is a difficult but important first step in improving Marsh's profitability. We will continue to develop our strategic plan to move Marsh forward in sales and profitability.

"While we regret that this decision will impact several of our associates, we will do everything possible to help them find another position within the company or give them severance packages to ensure a smooth transition for them and their families."

Local customers said they liked the store because they felt they received better prices and avoided long lines.

"At this store you can get in and get out fast," O'Hair said.

Considering all the publicity Marsh has been receiving in the news lately concerning a recent buyout, Keller said he feared an eventual closing.

"It doesn't surprise me," he said. "I know Marsh is having problems."

The list of other LoBill stores that are closing includes Danville, Richmond, three in Indianapolis and one in Greenville, Ohio.

The company announced that it is also closing a Marsh grocery store in Winchester, along with two O'Malia's stores in Indianapolis, two Village Pantry stores in Muncie, one in Kokomo and one in Chesterfield.

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