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Shoprite will soon become Farmer’s Foods

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After 50 years, Creasey steps out of grocery store business

By John Barnhart

Lewis Creasey will end half a century in the grocery business next month.

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    Creasey, who owns Shoprite, located on Va. 122 near Smith Mountain Lake, will sell the store to Farmer’s Foods, located in Chase City, Virginia. Farmer’s currently has seven stores in Virginia and two in North Carolina. Shoprite will be the company’s 10th store.
    According to Creasey, he is currently working out the final language of the contract and he  expects the sale to be complete the first week of March.
    “When I built this (new) store, my intention was to get it up and running and only stay here for three years.” Creasey said.
    He moved the store to its current location in 2006, and stayed five years; Creasey notes that he will turn 67 this year.
    “It’s time to cut back,” he said.    
    That means that he will no longer have the grocery store, but will still own the retail center where it’s located, as well as the car wash and laundromat there. He won’t be working seven days a week anymore.
    “When you own a business, you’re never off,” he commented.
    Creasey has been in the grocery business for 50 years.

    “I started working on my 17th birthday in 1961,” Creasey said.
    That was in November of that year and the job was at a Winn-Dixie store. That led to a career with Winn-Dixie and Creasey said that he was involved with the opening or remodeling of 53 of that chain’s stores in Virginia and North Carolina.
    “I was on the road for 10 years traveling for them,” he said.    
    That ended when he decided to open up his own store. It was an IGA store in Bedford and it opened on Sept. 15, 1985. He ultimately closed that store after his lease ran out.
    Shoprite, which first opened in 1982, became available. Creasey purchased it in 1994. The store was then located on Hendricks Store road, just around the corner from the current location. That building it occupied was also leased. Creasey later moved to his current location, which he owns. This move tripled his store’s size.
    Creasey said that business is still good, although the re-routing of Diamond Hill Road shaved a bit off of traffic to his store. He said that the new grocery store that moved in across the road hasn’t hurt him.
    “I can compete,” he said. “I’m cheaper than they are.”
    Creasey expects Farmer’s to remodel the store, something that he said should be done every five years to keep a store looking fresh.
    “Customers want to see things change,” he said. “They say they don’t, but they do.”
    Creasey said that he will miss it.
    “It will be hard to get used to,” he commented, about not running Shoprite.
    Creasey said that he is very customer oriented. That’s why he put his office right up front at the store’s entry and checkout line. It’s also why he kept the office door open.
    “If they want to talk to me about anything, I’m here,” he said.
    Creasey said that he knows his regular customers by name.
    “I’m not here to just take their money, I’m here to provide a service,” he said.
    Running the business like a mom-and-pop store is time consuming. Creasey lives on Smith Mountain Lake, but said that this is the first time in two years that he has had a fishing license. It’s been five years since the last time he had his boat out on the Lake. Creasey said that he gets it ready every spring, then covers it up again in its boat sling in the fall without having ever used it.
    “It just kind of took a back seat to taking care of business,” he said.
    He also wants to spend more time with his wife who, he said, has some heart-related health problems.
    Floyd “Buster” Madison, chief operating officer for Farmer’s Foods, said that he has known Creasey for 10 years and Creasey contacted him asking if Farmer’s would be interested in buying Shoprite.
    Madison said that Shoprite fits his company’s profile. It’s in the type of community where they like to have stores and it’s the size of their average store. He said that Farmer’s also has a record of successfully competing against other chains, including in locations where he can stand in a Farmer’s parking lot and look across the road right into the front door of another store.
    “I say, ‘bring ‘em on,’” Madison said, concerning competition.
    The gas pumps at Shoprite were also an attractive feature. Madison said that they have a program under which customers get credits for money they spend in the store that’s good for discounts off the price of gasoline.
    Being able to deal directly with the store’s current owner is also a plus.
    “Having that face-to-face contact without a third party in between is the best way to do it,” he said.
    The remodeling that Farmer’s intends to do involves installing a walk-in beer cooler and adding a full service seafood department.
    “The full service seafood department will be a positive addition,” Madison said.
    Madison anticipates that all the remodeling, including changing the name on the building to Farmer’s Foods, will be complete by June 1.
    Some features will stay the same. The office will remain at the front of the building. He also plans to keep all of Creasey’s current employees.
    “He has some good employees,” said Madison. “I’m grateful that they will stay aboard with us.”
    According to Madison, Farmer’s Foods was founded 45 years ago by Johnny Farmer. Farmer is 74, still has a hand in running the company and will be in this area during the store renovation.
    Like Creasey, Madison has been in the grocery store business ever since he got his first job working in one when he was 17. That was 40 years ago.
    “Once you get in, you never get out,” he commented concerning this line of work.