A downtown Sylvan Lake store that has been a town mainstay is closing its doors.
One of the town’s oldest continually operating businesses, Cobb’s AG Foods, is putting up the closed sign for good early in the new year.
Owner Don Gummo, 65, said it became increasingly difficult to make a go of it as an independent grocery store in the town, which has seen a number of big box competitors set up shop in recent years. No Frills, Wal-Mart Super Centre, Shoppers Drug Mart and Sobey’s have all opened stores in the community of 11,000.
Closing was not an easy decision for Gummo, who has run the store with his wife Rita since 1999.
He tried unsuccessfully for about a year to find another buyer for the business in hopes his 25 staff could keep their jobs.
“Nobody’s interested,” said Gummo, who has been deeply involved in the community since he arrived.
“I know from talking to other people in the grocery industry they’re amazed that a nice store like this has to close down.”
The store was named after A.F. Cobb, who purchased what was then a Co-op grocery and dry goods business in 1928.
Under Gummo’s watch, the grocery store located in the heart of Sylvan Lake has maintained a loyal local following and earned numerous grocery awards from the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers.
“When I started here in ’99 there was nobody else. This store’s been here for 85 years. It’s enjoyed some great years.
“We’ve had a good solid following of local people for a long time,” he said.
“But it’s the way of the future. Everybody is going to the box stores, I guess.”
Gummo said the last official day of business will be Dec. 31.
In the first couple of days in January, he will sell off as much stock as he can at 35 per cent off.
It has been an emotional end to his grocery career.
“I’ve been in this business for 35 years. I never dreamt that I’d have to close a store down. I thought I’d always be able to sell out and carry on from there.”
Gummo said he and his wife will remain in the community. The couple have a home in Jarvis Bay and have two grown children in Sylvan Lake and another in Medicine Hat, along with three grandchildren.
— copyright Red Deer Advocate