Herald JournalWinsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Oct. 21, 2002

LP Market and Deli closes

By Ryan Gueningsman

Lester Prairie Market and Deli closed its door for the final time Oct. 11 at 4 p.m.

Store owner Bob DeMaris said it boiled down to bigger stores in Hutchinson and toward the cities, and not enough customers spending enough money.

"The whole general economy has been down 15 to 20 percent since last fall, after Sept. 11, and the world changed," DeMaris said. "This was just another little store that couldn't take another cut."

The store was unable to pay the refinance payment when it came time to do so.

"Banks want their money, too," he said. "But, the money is in the store on the shelves."

The perishable stock has been sold to other area grocery stores. For the rest of the stock, there will be one last going-out-of-business sale Friday and Saturday, Oct. 25 and 26.

"That will be the last sale and liquidation of everything," he said. "There was a liquidator and auctioneer in here last Saturday to look at a lot of things."

As for the fate of the building, DeMaris feels that it is highly unlikely another grocery store will be in it.

"If a town wouldn't support a store that size, why would it support a bigger one?

"Anything is possible," he said. "But it's not likely."

The natural reaction to something like this happening in a small town is a lot of 'I knew it's,' and 'I told you so's,' DeMaris said. "But if people think the store's having a tough time ­ not shopping here isn't going to help."

DeMaris himself, although devastated, is not bitter about the situation he is in.

"I love the grocery store business," he said. "Nothing beat being in the store early in the morning after we just opened when the regulars came in.

"I'm going to continue doing catering when I can ­ and you never know where you'll see me next."

The closing of the Lester Prairie Market and Deli will no doubt have an impact on the community of Lester Prairie itself.

"Local businessmen support everyone and everything in a small town, and if you don't support them ­ it's the town that loses," DeMaris said.

Big Don's Carthedral and The Depot are both stocking up on grocery items.

"It's unfortunate that we lost the grocery store," Big Don's owner Don Artmann said. "Right now, we're stocking more to meet needs and kind of help out. We've also started a suggestion list for people."

Depot owner Rich Paule echoed Artmann's thoughts, saying that The Depot will be ordering more stock.

"It's too bad it's (the grocery store) closing," Paule said. "Naturally, we'll have to order more."

Another concern many people have is where the senior citizens and those who can't drive are going to go for the necessities.

"There are a lot of senior citizens who can't drive," Lester Prairie resident Audrey Ide said. "It was nice to have the little store for milk and bread and those things."

DeMaris even delivered groceries to some homebound seniors. He continued to do so last week, picking up some items from Glenn's SuperValu. He also explained to the customers what was going on.

"I'm in a position to lose an awful lot of money, and possibly my house," DeMaris said, "but Lester Prairie lost more."

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