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Two Americas: Has the way you shop changed? Impact on local grocers

Fredericksburg Market closes after decades as community staple
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Posted at 6:00 PM, Feb 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-10 19:05:38-05

The way we shop has no doubt changed.

We’re busier than ever — trying to fit more in, with less time.

And that’s true in big cities and small rural communities.

Our Two Americas series is meant to show you the people and places we don’t always see.

The Fredericksburg Market in Wayne County is the kind of place where everybody knows your name. Your deli order. And your family.

Because here, they are all family.

“I've been coming to the Fredericksburg Market since 1969,” said Albert Miller.

“Forty-four years,” for Rose Hanshaw, who makes a stop on her walk every morning. “We’re a small community, a family community, and this place here is my family.”

The 200-year old building has stood the test of time — a former tin factory turned grocery store.

The relationships formed here are built to last.

And for decades, the Fredericksburg Market was the place to be.

Until now.

It closed its doors in January, a decade after the Chupp family took it over.

“I always joke and say my husband actually bought the store before he talked to me about it. Like we just knew it was going to be right,” said Tanya Chupp.

They bought it because Chupp’s mother-in-law worked here for 30 years.

Because they care about this community — Joe Chupp is the mayor, after all.

But they have all felt the changes in the way we shop.

“I think we’re busier, like as a whole as people. We’re busier, we want things quicker, we want things faster,” Tanya Chupp said.

That might make sense in a big, bustling city.

But it’s true even in a quiet, primarily Amish community.

The slower pace has shifted.

For many of us, contactless shopping has become the rule, not the exception, especially after COVID-19.

Curbside pickup orders and doorstep delivery have become the norm.

But there’s a caveat with that, of course.

“You can’t have it all,” said Michael Goldberg, executive director of the Veale Institute for Entrepreneurship at Case Western Reserve University.

“So you’ll hear folks complain their main street doesn’t look like it once was, yet those same people are making decisions because of price, quality, and variety to shop other places,” Goldberg said.

It’s not only pricing that forces small grocers to struggle.

Supply chain issues and staffing shortages hit hard as well.

“I think the challenge is that a lot of these local grocery stores really were the fabric of our communities,” Goldberg said.

“And that’s what we did well, the personal touch,” Chupp said. “And when people aren’t yearning for that anymore, they’re just trying to be fast-paced. That’s the end result, they get their stuff other places.”

Cheaper places, too.

In this economy, we know how much pricing matters.

According to Walmart — 90% of Americans live within 10 miles of one of their stores.

Fredericksburg is 20 miles from one to the north, and one to the south. Still, people make the trek.

Chupp said they went through 17 wholesalers in 10 years — and still couldn’t compete.

“What’s sad is bigger stores like Walmart, Dollar General, or Aldi, I can go and get stuff there retail for cheaper than I can get it from my wholesaler.”

“Our system is just broken - and it makes it hard for all small businesses,” she said.

It makes it hard for small communities, too.

Because as that personal touch fades, so do moments like these.

The entire school. The whole staff. Every single student, with flowers and handmade cards, was handed to Chupp. Coming to say their goodbyes.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she said, sobbing.

But this isn’t goodbye for the Chupps — it’s see you later.

The family lives above the market — and plans to eventually convert the store into a community hub.