Buehler’s Fresh Foods in Delaware closed its doors for the final time Saturday afternoon.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a wrap,” announced George Wisener, manager of Buehler’s in Delaware, on Saturday at 4 p.m., as the Central Avenue store was closed and locked up for the last time.
The closing of the store will affect 131 employees, as well as many sad local shoppers.
“It’s a sad day for Delaware and a sad day for our employees,” said Wisener, who has worked at the market for the past 10 years. “Tough day. Tough day.”
Despite the difficulty of the day, Wisener did not forget his employees. “[I] wanted to just thank them for everything they’ve done during the closing,” he said. “They’ve been fantastic.”
Rich Cottrill was shopping for a Valentine’s Day present just minutes before the market closed. He said he has been shopping at Buehler’s since it opened.
“I’m gonna miss it,” Cottrill said. “I’ll probably remember it as being a meeting place where we always saw people and would sometimes stand and visit for hours while we were shopping.”
As the clock approached 4 o’clock, the market was filled with tearful goodbyes between coworkers, between employees and regular customers, and even between a young girl and a well-loved rocking horse called Sandy.
Seeing Sandy has always been a part of 10-year-old Elayna Moore’s visits to Buehler’s. “We’ve been bringing her here since she was a baby,” said Elayna’s mother, Angela Moore. The Moore family hopes that Sandy will be kept at ACE Hardware, which will remain open despite Buehler’s closing.
Chris Rice, who has worked at Buehler’s for 24 years, spent the market’s last moments, saying goodbye to customers. The sense of community between employees and customers was evident as they wished each other luck in their futures.
Rice said his reaction to the market’s closing was “devastated.”
“It wasn’t only my job,” she said. “It was my grocery store, my family friends, my coworkers. I’m losing a lot.”
As the last customers left the store, one customer looked particularly upset. When she saw him, a Buehler’s employee stepped out from behind the customer service desk where she had been standing and, in a moment that captured the sense of community that was so apparent at Buehler’s, she called out: “Would you like a hug, sir?”
Parent company E&H Family Group of Wooster first announced Jan. 4 that it would be closing the Delaware Buehler’s at 800 W. Central Ave.
“The painful decision to close came after a year of deliberating Buehler’s entire portfolio of stores,” said a company statement on Jan. 4. “Buehler’s tried a number of initiatives over the last few years at Delaware, but were at a disadvantage with only one store in a heavily over-stored Delaware market.”
Buehler’s had been in Delaware since 1969.