Metro-East News

This grocery store went out of business. Rotting food remained for 11 days.

For 11 days after the Schuette family filed for bankruptcy and shutdown their remaining stores, food inside of the abandoned Breese market continued to rot and decay.

An overwhelming smell of spoiled groceries had become a problem inside the former Schuette store, where customers can still pick up medicine at the independent pharmacy.

Family Care Pharmacy, which operates on the east side of the building, remained opened after the market suddenly closed Sept. 6. Customers complained about the stench inside until the rotting food was placed in freezers to later be properly discarded. Bankruptcy trustee Robert Eggmann ordered the action Tuesday after the Belleville News-Democrat reported the problem.

A metal gate separates the pharmacy from the market but that wasn’t not enough to block the odor.

“It smells now when you go into the pharmacy,” Don Dapkus, a pharmacy customer, said after a trip to the store Sept. 14. “They had air fragrance mist set up to kill the smell.”

Determining who is responsible for the store’s spoiling inventory in the midst of the bankruptcy also raised a stink.

Carmen Sledge, Mike Schuette’s daughter and spokesperson for the family, said legal proceedings prevented the owners from clearing the store and that a local bank assumed responsibility of the building and its contents.

Dale Deiters, president and CEO of Germantown Bank, said that’s not true. He said Tuesday that those assets are under control of the bankruptcy trustee, not the bank. He doesn’t have the keys and won’t have access to the building until the case moves forward in court.

“We’re legally barred and bound by bankruptcy court,” Deiters said. “I’d like to see what’s in the store.”

Deiters said the Schuette family should have cleared the store prior to its closing. Eggmann agreed, saying the store owners had the responsibility of securing the building and assets inside before walking away.

Store employees inside scattered scented candles and citrus air fresheners throughout the building in an attempt to combat a stench that only got worse. Plastic tubes filled with fragrance couldn’t compete with the smell that greeted pharmacy customers at the front door.

When asked about the groceries left behind, the Schuette family said their hands were tied. Sledge said it wasn’t their decision but they expected a liquidation sale to happen soon after they closed Sept. 6. That didn’t happen.

Eggmann said Chapter 7 bankruptcy doesn’t prohibit business owners from securing assets. He’s spent the last 11 days locking down a liquidator and interviewing prospective buyers for the store.

A liquidation sale at both the remaining stores in Troy and Breese is expected to happen soon. Eggmann could not comment on any potential buyers for the store.

“This was a surprise to everyone,” Sledge said Monday. “My dad lost everything trying to keep it alive.”

The owner of Family Care Pharmacy could not immediately be reached.

In a statement released Sept. 7, Schuette Stores Inc., and its sister company, Topmost Development Corp., explained that the grocery business had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Mike Schuette mentioned online shopping and home delivery as amenities that have changed the business.

As for the rotten groceries left behind, a Clinton County health inspector was expected to arrive at the store Tuesday. The county expressed concerns that the possibility of rodents and insects entering the store could become a problem if the store isn’t cleaned up soon.

Eggmann said the food will be properly discarded.

Cara Anthony: 618-239-2471, @CaraRAnthony