It’s hard for Elaine Davis to imagine New Athens without a grocery store.
She lives and works in the small Illinois town along the Kaskaskia River, where residents won’t have easy access to fresh food now that the only grocery store in town has closed.
“It’s sad,” Davis said. “Every town needs a grocery store, even if it’s just to pick up your basic items.”
New Athens Supermarket, located at 1102 Spotsylvania St., closed July 31. Driving 20 to 30 minutes for groceries in Belleville or Sparta will be hard on some residents, especially the elderly, Davis said.
There’s a Dollar General in New Athens, but it doesn’t have a produce section. After Tom’s Market closed 15 minutes away in Freeburg, a new, locally owned grocery store opened in its place, but residents say that’s still not as convenient as having a store in New Athens.
The store on Spotsylvania Street opened in 1975 as Klingenberg’s IGA Foodliner. Different owners have operated the business under different names since then.
Kay Kuber, Inc. most recently owned the building and opened the store as New Athens Supermarket. Before that it was known as New Athens Cash Saver Food Store. It also operated as a Tom’s Mad Pricer.
Local grocer Don Norrenberns sold it to Kay Kuber, Inc. two years ago and business has declined since, owner Paul Patel said. He said people weren’t shopping at the store and it was forced to close.
One of Kuber’s employees, Jessica Perez, said the store experienced highs and lows during the eight months she worked there. Produce and meat weren’t always as fresh as they should have been, but she blamed Patel’s venders for that problem, not the store.
Perez said the store was tied to those vendors by contract.
“A lot people did give them a try,” Perez said. “There were the the store could have done better.”
Local resident Latoya Mosby-Wisham agreed.
“The food there wasn’t all that great,” she said. “But it’s what we had.”
New Athens Supermarket is currently list for $649,000.