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GRETCHEN METZ , Staff Writer

 September 12, 2003

VALLEY -- The anchor store in the Airport Village Shopping Center, Charlie’s Thriftway, is set to close Sept. 21.

Owner Rick Persch said he is going out of business because his 10-year sublease is set to expire Nov. 30 and renewal was denied by the bankruptcy court handling Fleming Foods’ Chapter 11 filing. The lease on Charlie’s 33,000-square-foot space is held by Fleming, a bankrupt retail grocery consortium based in Lewisville, Texas.

"We had over 100 employees," Persch said. "Some have filtered over to other stores, some are on unemployment."

Standing in his store surrounded by half-full shelves and very few customers on Thursday, coincidentally his 43rd birthday, Persch said he is relieved to have made the decision and is ready to start "another chapter" in his life, although he said he did not know what that chapter would be.

Persch, of Sadsbury, said he has been in the grocery business 30 years, starting when he was 12 in a store owned by his father, Charlie Persch.

Charlie Persch opened the first Charlie’s Thriftway in 1948 in Parkesburg. He kept it going for 50 years until he retired in 1998 and closed it.

The younger Persch opened the Airport Village store in 1993. He opened another store in Caln in 2000 in a former SuperFresh but closed that store 10 months later because sales there just never took off.

Charlie’s Thriftway’s competition includes a Wal-Mart Supercenter in the West Sadsbury Commons that opened in the spring of 2002 some three miles west of his store. Several miles to the east, a new 64,000-square-foot Giant Food Market, replacing a smaller Giant store, also opened 2002.

"Wal-Mart didn’t help but that affected us 18 months ago," Persch said. "We’re service-oriented and our perishables were far superior. Giant did not impact us at all."

Persch said he will miss his customers and miss working with the public.

Airport Village is owned and managed by J. Loew & Associates of East Caln.

"We’re working very hard to have a replacement for Charlie’s," said Jack Loew, president of the commercial development company. "We have two interested parties, if we get the store back."

Right now, Loew has no authority to lease the space. He must wait for a decision from the bankruptcy court before he can make a move, he said. 

The 10-year-old center is fully leased, Loew said, but other tenants are "anxious" right now until they know the outcome of the anchor location. 

Daman Jeet, owner of Dollars Town, Charlie’s next-door neighbor, said the supermarket’s closing means business will go down for her. 

The Dollars Town store has been at that location about six years. Jeet said she bought the store 2½ years ago. 

Jeet said she was not surprised when the going-out-of-business signs went up. She said the store had not been fully stocked for some time. 

Cathy Catanese, who owns The Caddy Shack in the Airport Village with her husband, Joseph, said she is "sad" about Charlie’s closing but "it wasn’t really a surprise with Wal-Mart coming in." 

Catanese said she is slightly concerned about the closing of the shopping center’s anchor but thinks some of the other small retailers in the center might be more worried. 

"We’re a golf retail store. Charlie’s was not a draw for us," Catanese said. "Women shop for groceries and go to the other stores. Men come here." 

Wal-Mart, the Bentonville, Ark., superpower and leading U.S. food retailer recognized for its formidable buying, had an impact on another nearby smaller market. 

The 34-year-old Acme grocery store at the Parkesburg Center closed in May, one year after the West Sadsbury Wal-Mart Supercenter opened about two miles to the north. 

Officials said it had been unprofitable for years but acknowledged the Wal-Mart did make a difference. 

"The Wal-Mart affected our sales, no question about it," Acme spokesman Walt Rubel said at the time the store closed. "The store would most likely have closed anyway and Wal-Mart’s opening hastened that situation." 

Merchandise at Charlie’s is 25 percent off until Saturday, when everything but milk and cigarettes will be 50 percent off.

İDaily Local News 2003


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