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Evergreen grocery store announces closing

Big Bear of Luverne, Inc. announced the closure of its Evergreen location Monday.

The supermarket, Food Depot, located at 90 Liberty Hill Place in Evergreen, closed Nov. 13, according to John M. Wilson, co-owner and COO.

“We have made the very difficult, yet necessary, decision to close our Food Depot Store in Evergreen, effective immediately,” Wilson said in a written statement issued Monday.

Employees of the Food Depot location in Evergreen said they came to work Sunday morning to find the store closed.

“I worked a normal schedule on Friday,” said Sherry Scott, store manager for the Evergreen location.

“I was assured before I left Friday by the general manager, Don Slatton, that everything was fine.  On Sunday morning when employees showed up for work, the doors were barricaded shut and they were told by Don Slatton that the store was having register problems and they should come back to work tomorrow.”

Big Bear of Luverne, Inc.  operates two other grocery store locations in Greenville [Super Foods] and in Luverne [Food Depot].

“Closing the Evergreen location was not an easy decision but it was necessary to keep the company positioned to be strong for the future and ensure growth in the existing locations in Greenville and Luverne,” Wilson said.

Wilson added that the company looks forward to continuing to provide great service and valuable products to customers in Greenville and Luverne for many years to come.

The Evergreen location building and interior fixtures are owned by the city of Evergreen; Wilson owns all of the actual products on the shelves.   Evergreen City Planner Bobby Skipper said the city would allow a reasonable amount of time for Wilson to remove remaining products on the shelves.

“It’s unfortunate the way that Mr. Wilson has chosen to handle his relationship with the city and the store’s employees,” Skipper said.

‘The city’s goal is to make sure the store’s employees are taken care of and that the store continues to operate for the citizens of Evergreen.”

A prospective buyer, Arnold Boles, visited the store Monday afternoon.  Boles, a former grocery store owner who lives in Columbus, Georgia, said he has signed intent to purchase and is looking forward to finalizing the deal at the first of the year.

“Tentative plans to take ownership of the store effective January 2017 are in the works,” Boles said.

“I had an opportunity to visit the store and meet with some of the employees.  If everything works out as planned, they’ll all have an opportunity to come back to work if they’d like to do so.  Evergreen is a good city and needs good shopping options.”

Boles owned and operated 10 grocery stores throughout Florida, Georgia and Alabama before retiring five years ago.

Scott said she had an opportunity to meet with Boles and she is excited about the opportunity to stay on as store manager.

“Mr. Boles seems like a genuinely nice, fair man, and I’m looking forward to what the future holds for the store.”

Wilson said that he regrets that the decision to close the store had to be made in such a short timeframe, and that it has been the company’s pleasure to serve the customers of Evergreen since 2014.

“We encourage all Evergreen employees to apply for open positions in Greenville in Luverne,” Wilson said.

“We will help employees with letters of recommendations and assist with any unemployment benefits that may apply to employees.  All employees will be paid for hours worked the last week of operation, sent by certified mail this week.”