WILLSBORO - The town's largest grocery store has closed despite feverish efforts to keep it open for a dwindling number of customers.
Store owner Mark McKenna and his wife, Wanda, cited lack of community support as the main reason for closing down the Willsboro Country IGA. Ultimately, he said, they could not compete with larger supermarkets in Plattsburgh.
"We did have a lot of regular shoppers that we'd really like to thank for their support," said Mark, "but all in all, people went to Plattsburgh."
The McKennas, who also own the Country Store on Route 22, began leasing the grocery store in 2005 after the Tops market there had closed down. Now, they say, they just can't make it work anymore.
"There's been a big grocery store in this community for 50 years, so it's a big change for people," said Wanda. "It's just hard to imagine how such a big store like that impacts so many people."
The store is the latest institutional casualty in downtown Willsboro, which over the past 12 years has lost a school, bank, and a handful of other businesses.
"It's a shame to lose another business because that's not good for the marketplace," said Willsboro Supervisor Lori Lincoln-Spooner. "I do want to thank Mark and Wanda McKenna for their effort to keep it going. We just don't have the numbers here to support it."
In June, the McKennas switched distributors, swapping the IGA label for a line of Shur-Fine products that offered more competitive prices.
"It did make a difference for a little while, but it just wasn't enough," said Mark.
The McKennas will now seek to consolidate some of their services. Plans for expansion at the Country Store include adding a full line of produce and a better selection of meats and other grocery items.
"Everything we had downtown is going to come here," Mark said. "If somebody wanted to do their regular shopping here, they would be able to."
Lincoln-Spooner said expanding the Country Store would help fill the void left by the loss of the IGA, also noting the presence of Village Meat Market as a source for food items in Willsboro.
The McKennas expressed concern for senior citizens within the town, which made up much of their customer base and may find it hard to shop out of town. In response, they are instituting a grocery delivery program similar to the one they had at the IGA.
"We've always done it, and we will continue to do it," he said.