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Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Lebanon — City leaders say they hope to partner with community groups in an effort to avoid the potential closing of downtown Lebanon’s lone grocery store.

With rumors circulating that the Lebanon Village Marketplace could go out of business this week, officials said they are searching for alternatives for residents who cannot easily shop elsewhere.

Lebanon Mayor Sue Prentiss on Monday asked that the city’s administration work with the Lebanon Housing Authority — which manages the nearby Rogers House — to determine a plan for seniors who frequent the store.

Discussion of the grocer’s fate is also on the City Council’s Wednesday meeting agenda, she said.

“I think it’s fair to say there’s definitely less on the shelves,” Prentiss said after visiting the grocery store on Monday afternoon. “I don’t know what it’s going to look like next week.”

Prentiss, Lebanon City Manager Shaun Mulholland and Rob Taylor, executive director of the Lebanon Area Chamber of Commerce, went together this week to Lebanon Village Marketplace to inquire its status.

While it’s true that employees aren’t being scheduled past Wednesday, store owner Ritchard Bill told the trio he’s trying to find a way to remain in business, Prentiss said.

“He is juggling a host of issues trying to make the market work,” Prentiss later wrote to City Council members. “The best thing we can do right now is encourage folks to shop there.”

Bill declined to comment on potential closing on Monday morning, saying only that “it’s a possibility.” Many of the shelves and freezers that once held produce and dried goods appeared to be empty around noon, while the bakery and prepared food section still attracted customers.

“He’s in a tough situation and you can tell times are tough,” Taylor said after his visit to the store. “(The market) still has a pulse but it’s certainly in critical care.”

The store is likely having difficulty competing with the likes of Price Chopper, Shaw’s, Hannaford and the Co-Op Food Stores, all of which have Lebanon locations, Taylor said.

That competition also is compounded by the store’s status as quasi convenience store, where people sometimes skip the groceries in favor of 20 ounce sodas, he said.

“I mean, it’s kind of a tragedy for Lebanon to look at the bare shelves and contemplate not having a grocery store downtown,” Taylor said.

Talk of the Lebanon Village Marketplace going out of business has been rumored since last month, when customers began noticing shelves were not being restocked.

promotion Etienne Wedges Wedges Aigner Aigner Boutique promotion Etienne promotion Boutique Aigner Boutique Etienne The previous grocer in the space also was forced to fold, more than a decade ago. The space was vacant for two years after its predecessor, known as Butson’s, went out of business, to be revived by Bill in 2005.

Aigner promotion Boutique Etienne Wedges Boutique promotion Boutique Wedges promotion Etienne Aigner Aigner Etienne “They don’t seem to be restocking their shelves at all,” said City Councilor Bruce Bronner during a phone interview on Monday.

Bronner said he heard rumors of the store’s closing, but hasn’t been successful getting answers from employees.

“They’re all pretty mum,” he said. “Nobody has anything to say.”

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The store is a great asset for the downtown community, and one of the few places where people can purchase healthy meals for under $5, said Bronner, who is fond of the marketplace’s meatloaf.

“There are people that are going to suffer,” he said. “They’re going to be bummed because you can’t duplicate what (the store) is providing.”

Mechanic Street resident David Muzzy said he’ll be one of the residents who would miss the store. He walks to Lebanon Village Marketplace several times a week for groceries.

“It’s very convenient for me, and I spend approximately $200 a month there, if not more,” Muzzy said. “A lot of people utilize that little store.”

Muzzy said he was in the checkout line last week when a cashier informed him the store could be out of business by the end of this week.

“As far as I know, it’s no rumor,” he said. “I checked with the manager.”

The store serves many residents who don’t own vehicles.

It’s a handy place to pickup milk and bread during the week, added Carmen Deuso, who lives at Rogers House, a subsidized apartment complex for seniors across the street from Colburn Park.

Deuso, 80, takes the bus to do the bulk of her weekly shopping at Hannaford in West Lebanon. But some of her neighbors rely solely on the Lebanon Village Marketplace for their groceries, she said.

“I don’t know what some of the people in here will do because some of them can’t hardly walk,” she said. “I’ll be checking in on some of them, go to the store for them, if they need it.”

Roberta Durgin, who also lives at Rogers House, said she would miss the store too.

“They have a lot of stuff over there, so we don’t have to run down to Price Chopper,” she said, adding the store is also convenient for nearby families. “A lot of people stop by, coming and going after they get out of work.”

In the event the store closes, Prentiss said city officials are hoping to map out shopping alternatives with seniors and other downtown residents in mind.

“We are aware. We understand the impact on downtown,” Prentiss said. “We can work with the business community to see what our options are and see what we can do.”

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.



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