By ROBERT CREENAN, Huron Daily Tribune
PIGEON, Mich. (AP) — After operating for 40 years, the Pigeon Family Market announced it will be closing at the end of the month.
The market announced its closure in a Facebook post on Oct. 1, which extended thanks to all the customers, vendors, employees and other people that have become family to them over the years.
Shirley Ashmore, the general manager for the market, told the Huron Daily Tribune that ever since the Meijer in Bad Axe opened, their sales have gone down.
“We think that during the winter, it is going to get worse,” Ashmore said.
The closure leaves the village of Pigeon without a grocery store to call its own, with residents having to travel outside of town to do their shopping.
Dennis Hug, the store owner who lives in the Harbor Springs-Petoskey area of Northern Michigan, has owned the store for about four years after buying it from the Schuette family. He also owns the Caseville Family Market, with both known as IGAs before taking their current names.
Hug said a lot of money was invested into improving the store when he purchased it, but the residents of Pigeon did not respond the way he hoped after cleaning and fixing the place up.
“When you invest money, you expect a return,” Hunt said. “After operating the store for so many years, we were not able to take one penny of revenue out of it, we just kept putting money into it.”
Oddly enough, Hug said the coronavirus pandemic was good for the grocery business, since people were eating their food at home instead of going out to restaurants, but they did see an immediate decline once Meijer opened.
“Every store has a basic level of service needed for customers, and you need people working there for a good shopping experience,” Hug said. “When you can’t get enough revenue to support that, you have to make a decision, which is where we found ourselves.”
The market currently employs between 10 and 12 people, with more usually employed over the summer. Hug said that some employees will have positions available for them at the Caseville Family Market, while he is confident the rest will be able to find work as other businesses are hiring.
The meat and deli departments were the areas Hug acknowledged were the backbone of the market, with Todd Schuette, one of the previous owners, selling his sausages there.
“We were fighting against Walmart for a while and we were doing fine because our meat and produce was better,” Hug said. “Meijer just brought a whole new level.”
Hug acknowledges that big box stores like Meijer and Walmart do fulfill some shopping needs, since they are not just grocery stores, but also hardware and clothes stores. He also had come criticisms for dollar stores, where price trumps everything ahead of good customer service and being clean.
“Doesn’t every town want a grocery store of their own so people don’t have to drive somewhere else?” Hug said.
He also said the prevalence of online shopping and low gas prices were other reasons people weren’t coming into the market.
Hug also noted that when people shop at a dollar store, Meijer, or Walmart, all the money they spend on goods flows out of the community. The Pigeon Family Market has employed all local people and the money flowing into it has not left the community.
“What’s going to happen to main street in Pigeon and Caseville is the small stores will struggle to stay open,” Hug said. “The Caseville Family Market is going to survive because of the summer crowd. We’ll be able to put the money from them in the bank to survive through the winter months.”
The market will remain open until the end of the month, which is how long the inventory is expected to last.
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