Save-a-Lot Closes Its Doors
After two decades, grocery store at the corner of Congress and Market closed to patrons Saturday.
Mechelle Stauffer could have stayed home on a rainy Thursday afternoon. With just two days left, nobody was going to fire her.
Instead, she was at Save-a-Lot, helping customers in the same way the store owners, Mike and Stephanie Linkous, have always been there for her.
An employee and manager of the Havre de Grace Save-a-Lot for 14 years, Stauffer said she felt a sense of gratitude towards the owners, even as the final hours of operation ticked down towards Saturday's closing.
"They held out as long as they could," Stauffer said of the Linkous family. "They're not abandoning the community. They've done everything they can to get something back in here. It's the corporation. I don't want Mike to be upset with me, but the truth is the truth. They cut us off."
The Save-a-Lot corporation reportedly requested a remodel of the building, which proved too pricey. The last delivery truck arrived a week before Saturday's closing.
A Save-a-Lot spokesperson directed all questions to the local owner.
"They wanted me to remodel the building or move to Route 40. The effort I'd have to put out was not worth the return," Linkous said. "They wanted a complete remodel. They were making it tough."
After leasing the property for several years, the Linkous family purchased it in 2008 and invested heavily in improvements. But his efforts were not enough for corporate headquarters.
"I put a lot of money into that thing, keeping it open," Mike Linkous said. "I had three legitimate buyers. Save-a-Lot would not approve them. That was their way of saying [the partnership was over.]"
Linkous said he is not a franchise owner. Instead, he simply purchased all his goods from the corporation's warehouse in return for using the company's name. Save-a-Lot did not profit from the sales in Havre de Grace, he said.
Linkous said Save-a-Lot recently sent out an e-mail saying they were beginning to provide goods for Rite Aid, which recently opened a pharmacy on Route 40 in Havre de Grace.
"I'm going to miss it tremendously," Linkous said.
One of the regular customers was Havre de Grace Mayor Wayne H. Dougherty, who lives in walking distance from the grocery store. He first heard about the closing by phone last week, and doubted the truth behind it. But ultimately, he learned the news that the city staple would be closing at week's end.
"I'm going to really miss it. I liked the products they carried very well," Dougherty said. "I really liked their meats. The city is certainly going to miss them. It's going to be a very big loss for us."
Stauffer, 44, is a Havre de Grace resident. She has seen numerous non-profit organizations come to Save-a-Lot in need of donations. They never left empty-handed.
"The other day I heard [the Salvation Army] wanted 375 turkeys for the holidays," Stauffer said. "Now they have to go find somewhere else. They'd come here for donations or they'd order their food from here because we were the cheapest around."
Melissa Swisher, 42, of Havre de Grace, has worked at the Save-a-Lot for eight years. She thinks the store's closing is going to harm the community's elderly population the most.
"You've got the elderly people that can't even walk," Swisher said. "They're in their little motor scooters; it was more convenient for them to get here. "
The staff and dedicated customers hold onto a pipe dream of a new vendor taking Save-a-Lot's place
"Customers have talked about if it could be community owned," Stauffer said. "But that would be a lot of technicalities. Hopefully, we can get something comparable from what we've got."