EVANSVILLE — The upcoming closure of Buehler's IGA on North Main Street will be a blow to the Jacobsville neighborhood following the City of Evansville's investment of nearly $14 million to upgrade North Main.
The closure will be sometime after Christmas, said Angela Stinchfield, who has worked at the store four years. The store has about 24 employees.
Buehler's IGA is managed by Houchens Industries of Bowling Green, Kentucky. The property is owned by a Jasper, Indiana, corporation.
The property was remodeled in 2012. It was put up for sale in December 2016.
"I begged them a year ago to stay open, and they did," said Kelley Coures, director of the Department of Metropolitan Development.
The store's decision to close now is disappointing but not surprising, Coures said. The property sits in one of Evansville's most impoverished Census tracts.
Although the store struggled to be profitable, many residents of the Jacobsville neighborhood relied on it. No other stores with fresh foods are nearby, and many residents who don't drive walked to and from the Buehler's IGA.
"It's going to be hard on people who live around here," said Patricia Woodard of Evansville, who drove up in her car to shop. "It's sad. People don't have a fighting chance nowadays."
Woodard noted that a Walmart Neighborhood Grocery opened a few months ago at First and Diamond avenues, "but all of these people who don't drive, how are they going to get there?"
Debra Heiken lives Downtown near the YMCA. She walked back in that direction from Buehler's IGA on Monday afternoon, with an armful of groceries.
"I was hoping they would make this is a Ruler Foods," Heiken said. "(The closing) is sad. It will be an eyesore when it's closed. What are they going to do with it?"
With Buehler's IGA closing, Heiken said she will probably take public transportation to a Ruler Foods or Sav-A-Lot for groceries.
Heiken worked for the Buehler's IGA as a teenager years ago when the store had a different name.
"It was really hopping then," she said.
The North Main Street reconstruction lasted about 18 months and stifled business along the corridor. Now that it is completed, Evansville officials are pushing for new housing and business growth there.
The city last week joined with local builders and Realtors associations to host a symposium for developers that included tours of the Jacobsville neighborhood.
"We're not going to give up," Coures said about getting another store in that location. "We don't want to have a food desert in that area."