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Food Lion in Gainesville closing next week
0913FoodLion
Food Lion's store on South Enota Drive in Gainesville is closing Sept. 20. The location employs about 35 and has been in operation for 20 years.

For the past 10 years, Robert Dowell has leaned on the Food Lion store as his source for groceries.

It’s just close to his Gainesville home.

But Monday, as he pushed his cart by the meat section of the South Enota Drive store, he reflected on what he’ll do now after learning that the 20-year-old store is closing Sept. 20.

“I guess I’ll just have to go a little farther for my groceries,” Dowell said.

Increased competition from newer stores such as the Kroger Marketplace off Jesse Jewell in New Holland — where Dowell hasn’t stepped foot in — and the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market on Thompson Bridge Road killed business at the Food Lion, an anchor in the longtime Sherwood Plaza Shopping Center.

The store “is just not profitable,” store manager John Atterholt said.

“Food Lion has made the difficult decision to close (the store) as a result of the lease ending at this location,” spokeswoman Kristyn Callaway said Monday by email.

“We appreciate the support of our dedicated associates and loyal customers in the Gainesville area, and we look forward to continue serving our customers at (the Dawsonville store).”

Atterholt broke the news last week to employees, who were hit hard but not totally surprised.

“I had been keeping them informed,” he said. “They knew it was going to happen. They just didn’t know when. Sales had really been suffering.”

Still, “even when you know it’s going to happen, it doesn’t hit you until it does happen,” Atterholt said.

The store, which sits between Park Hill Drive and Jesse Jewell Parkway, has about 35 employees.

Four employees will transfer to Food Lion’s Dawsonville store, Atterholt said.

The others will lose their jobs.

“I don’t have anything at this point,” added the store manager, a 9-year employee who has managed the Gainesville store for the past three years.

Adam Ivie, a 10-year employee who works in the store’s produce department, confirmed that rumors had been flying about the store’s eventual demise.

“We’ve been on edge about it,” said Ivie as he stocked lettuce.

He said he’s gearing up for what follows his last days at Food Lion, putting out “applications elsewhere.”

“It’s sad they have to close,” Dowell said, especially lamenting that many older residents are loyal to the store.

Another customer, Michael Beasley, said the Food Lion was always a convenient spot to stop as he went home in North Hall from his job at nearby Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

“I just wonder if somebody will replace it with another grocery (store),” said Beasley, having just shopped in the store and standing in the parking lot.

He added: “There are other stores, so I’m not particular.”

The store dodged a bullet in 2012, when the grocery chain, based in Salisbury, N.C., closed 29 stores in Georgia, including one on Browns Bridge Road in Gainesville. A Food Lion store in Oakwood closed in 2010.

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