BELLEVILLE — New owners of the Main Street Market in west Belleville want to dispel rumors that they will turn the grocery store into an all-night liquor store.
Vin and Dimple Aggrawal, of Edwardsville, said they have no plans to expand liquor sales at 8193 W. Main St.
The Aggrawals, who previously owned a liquor store in Granite City, said such rumors have cost them once loyal customers in the west end of Belleville and about a two-thirds drop in sales.
"I want to keep it the same way as the old owners," Vin Aggrawal said. "We want to keep it a friendly neighborhood store and carry the things people need."
Vin Aggrawal said he will keep the liquor selection, and the popular meat and deli department.
If anything, Dimple Aggrawal said she plans to expand the selection of organic fruits and vegetables because of customers' request. The store already sells organic eggs and milk.
The previous owners, Mike Chenault and John Carpenter, sold the store in January after operating it for 42 years.
Chenault, 68, said it was time for him to retire.
"Business was declining a bit, but we have a lot of nice memories there," Chenault said. "I run into customers and they all say they miss us at the store. We wish (the new owners) luck and hope people support them."
Resident Barb Ducey, of the Signal Hill Neighborhood Association, said the new owners met with residents recently to address concerns. She attributed the rumors to residents reacting to change.
"It is a neighborhood grocery store and when it changes hands, it's like you lost a friend, but we'll get used to it," Ducey said. "The new owners are very nice and seem to have what is best for us at heart."
Ducey stopped by the store Wednesday to pick up some lettuce and chicken she needed to make dinner.
"That's why we like it," Ducey said. "You can pick things up you need last minute or ready made. It's not a big box store. You go in there, bump into a friend and have a conversation."
For the sake of the west end, all residents should want the store to do well so the building doesn't sit empty, Ducey said.
"If we want our community to succeed, we all have to support each other," Ducey said.
Ducey attended a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting last month to speak in favor of granting the Aggrawals a liquor license.
"I thought it was fair," Ducey said. "The old owners had one."
Two residents spoke against allowing the liquor license. They could not be reached for comment but, in summary, they expressed concerns about the building's condition, such as wiring issues.
Both zoning and council members asked about the store's building code violations, questioning if the store should get a liquor license before addressing outstanding violations.
The City Council voted this month to approve the liquor license permit.
If the owners were to make a major change to the use of the property, then they would have to go back to the city for approval. A major change includes extending liquor sale hours or switching from selling mostly groceries to mostly liquor.
Bob Sabo, director of the city's Health, Housing and Building Department, said the city conducts building inspections only when there's a change in ownership.
Sabo said the violations found in the inspection are not hazardous.
The store has made some improvements, such as installing hand and guard rails and replacing rotting floorboards, and should close soon for ceiling repairs.
Some residents worried the store will no longer sell groceries and only liquor because the Aggrawals used to own Corral Liquor in Wood River.
"It's not going to be the little corner market we knew and loved for 50 years," said Roger Wigginton, a member of the zoning board and owner of the Don Rodgers clothing store. "I'm convinced it's going to be a package liquor store."
The Aggrawals said they sold Corral Liquor in July because they do not want the long hours and liability that comes with operating a liquor store. They also used to own Whisper of Love gift shop in Edwardsville.
"We got rid of the liquor store so we can go home on time and be with our kids, enjoy our evenings," Dimple Aggrawal said.
Main Street Market is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays to Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Other residents did not like that new ownership forced out longtime employees.
The Aggrawals said they do not need as many workers because they will run the store as a family. They're also considering moving to Belleville.
"It's wrong to spread news like that to hurt us," Dimple Aggrawal said. "We have made our investment here and now, because of these rumors, we're watching our sales go down. We are trying to prove ourselves."
Mayor Mark Eckert said he believes the new owners are merely doing what other family-owned businesses do.
"Just like other family-run businesses, you will have family members take over some," Eckert said. "This is America: If people want to sell a business or buy a business, they can. I hate to see the man's business suffer and I hope people welcome them. We don't want to see more empty buildings in this town."