The city of Balaton's only grocery store is closing as its owner sells off the last of the stock and prepares to close up shop
BALATON - A Balaton institution is closing for the last time, and it has some of the townspeople wondering what it means for the town.
The Balaton Food Center is selling off the last of its inventory this week as it goes out of business and reverts to First Independent Bank.
Photo by Steve Browne
Many shelves at the Balaton Food Center were left bare this week as the store prepares to close.
"There was not enough community support," said Jennifer Kaup, who has owned the Food Center for the past nine years. "There's a lot of people who work in Marshall and do their grocery shopping there, and there's a lot of people who don't work in Marshall who make a special trip to shop there because they think the prices are too high."
But not everybody in town goes to Marshall to shop very often and enjoys the convenience of being able to buy their groceries locally.
"I feel bad about it," said long-time customer Marie Vercruysse on Tuesday. "I did quite a bit of business here, and I only found out about it today. My son told me about it and I thought I'd better go over and see if there's anything left."
Jennifer Kaup's mother, Gail, owns Balaton Specialties across the street from the Food Center, and sells everything from flowers and gifts to household goods and hardware items.
Speaking as a customer, Gail Kaup said the Center closing would be hard on her because she was used to picking up her needs a few items at a time every morning. But as a business owner, she anticipated serious effects.
"I won't be able to fill orders for fruit baskets anymore, gift baskets, or get Coke and chips for weights for balloon bouquets," Gail Kaup said. "It's going to affect our business, we know that already. You go out of town to pick up your groceries, you're going to get your cards and hardware too. The writing is on the wall."
Julie Benson and her husband own Bensons by the Lake gas station, convenience store and cafe. They plan to pick up some of the community demand and expand their operation.
"We're going to put in more milk and more bakery items," Julie Benson said. "We'll get more freezer space and remodel or expand. I've spent the last three days trying to get in extra bakery and more newspapers."
But Benson doesn't think this is going to be good for the community, even if it does result in more trade for her business.
"It's always sad to lose a business in a small town," Benson said.
And as for the people who relied on the Food Center for their livelihood, Jennifer Kaup said she is starting accounting classes online on May 1 and will look for a job, probably in Marshall.
Cashier Deb Fedde said she's worked at the Food Center for more than 20 years.
"Jennifer is my third boss," Fedde said. "I'm going to draw unemployment while I look for something."