William Parnell picks out a carton of eggs at Clayton Food Town last fall. He's been shopping at the local grocery store for 38 years.
CLAYTON -- After 51 years in business, Clayton Food Town has finally seen the end of its days.
The downtown Clayton grocery store is being sold to Compare Foods with the transition set to start October 1.
Co-owners Rick Blackmon and Harvey Wall said the decision wasn’t easy, but that the store hasn’t been as successful these past few years as they would have hoped.
“Sales have been down and we just had to make a decision what we were gonna do, continue to hold it open until we couldn’t make payments, or sell it,” Blackmon said. “We felt in order to come out with something we had to sell it.”
Ariel Ramirez, Compare Foods manager, said he’s looking forward to investing in the store to improve its lighting, refrigeration and product offerings. Working with MDI Distributors of Hickory with their stores in Zebulon and Henderson, Ramirez said they’ll be able to offer more brand-name items than Clayton Food Town previously had in stock.
“They’re using all of the retail names and big-brand names. They have great prices and we plan on putting those prices back into the customer,” Ramirez said.
Compare Foods will also be able to offer financial services that Clayton Food Town never had, including check cashing, wiring through MoneyGram, bill payments, 25-cent money orders, as well as the North Carolina lottery.
Blackmon said Compare Foods has indicated that they’ll keep existing Clayton Food Town employees, which he said he appreciates. For Blackmon and Wall, their employees and their customers are like a family to them.
“I’ll miss the customers more than anything, and I’m hoping they’ll get out on the floor and get to know the customers as well as we have,” Blackmon said.
Wall started out at Clayton Food Town as a bagboy when he was only 14 years old. After working as a food broker, he came back to the store and he and Blackmon bought it from its original owners in 1999.
“I was hoping to retire here,” Wall said. “I had envisioned about 10 more years, but the economy and everything changed. The last four years have been the toughest four years ever.”
Blackmon said that the slow economy along with the aging of their clientele hurt the business in the last few years. Construction workers who have been out of work due to the recession used to come in on Friday paydays to get their grocery shopping done, and older clientele have moved to nursing homes or passed away.
Blackmon added that new Clayton residents aren’t shopping downtown, but are doing their grocery shopping on Highway 70 or in Raleigh or Garner. Still, Blackmon is pleased that downtown Clayton will continue to have a grocery store.
“It’s a blessing that we could sell it and keep it open and continue to have a grocery store in downtown Clayton,” Blackmon said.
The store won’t close during the transition, but Compare Foods won’t have its grand opening until they’ve completed renovations.
As for Blackmon and Wall, they’ll be looking for something new to start the next chapter in their lives
“Everything happens for the best,” Wall said. “I just hate to be the one to take the Clayton Food Town name off the store – it’s been there so long.”