Great American grocery stores closing in Watertown, Star Lake

Updated: Nov. 5, 2019 at 5:34 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Two north country supermarkets will be closing their doors.

The owner of Great American Food Stores in Watertown and Star Lake made the announcement Tuesday.

Randall Lockwood said he made the decision to close due to rising costs, competition, and the changing landscape of the grocery industry.

He owned the Watertown location for 23 years and the Star Lake store for 3 years.

“We have a handful of loyal customers that have stuck by our side through thick and thin all of these years, as well as employees. Those customers, those employees, I’m going to miss deeply," said Lockwood.

The grocery stores will close by the end of the month.

The impending closure leaves customers like Michael Hutt wondering where to get groceries,

"I wish to God that they don't close. The only other place I can get my food is Family Dollar up on the other side town, which is still a mile walk for me," he said.

And he's not alone.

"I guess I'll be taking the bus. I'm not sure where I'll go from here," said customer Lucas Evans.

Major Dennis Smullen runs the Salvation Army across the street. He says Great American's location has helped those who struggle to get around town.

"If you're handicapped, if you're mobility challenged, you don't have a car, you have to take the bus elsewhere. In other words, you're no longer living one block, two block, three blocks away from a grocery store," he said.

For some people without their own transportation, Great American was the only supermarket within walking distance to them. The fact that it will be closing soon will contribute to a problem known as the food desert.

"Food desert means simply that food can be had, but you got to trek through the desert to get it. There's less of a supply of them. There's a convenience store, sure. There's smaller stores, yes. But a full size grocer, not one here. You got to take the bus, go across town," said Smullen.

Save A Lot food store is also on State Street. But it's still over a mile away from Great American.

And for Michael Hutt who relies on a cane, the distance is too far to overcome.

"I can't walk that far and I don't get no checks or nothing like that for a bus to get there to get any food," he said.

Major Smullen believes the people affected most will be able to overcome Great American's closing.

"The people in this section of town are tough. They'll survive this and better," he said.

But customers know it will take time.

"This is our main spot in this little section of the city. So, it's going to be an adjustment for us around here," said Evans.

And they’ll have just until the end of the month to make that adjustment.

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