‘I had no other choice’: Blacks Harbour, N.B. to lose only grocery store
After 51 years the Freshmart in Blacks Harbour, N.B., is closing its doors, leaving the village without a grocery store.
Store owner John Craig says he tried to stay open for as long as possible but with slowing business and crippling overhead costs he couldn’t go on any longer.
“I’m sorry that this had to come this way, but I had no other choice,” Craig said. “I did what a could for as long as I could, probably longer than I should have.”
“I do want to thank all my staff that stuck with me and my partner … but I’m sorry thing have to move on.”
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Craig has worked at the Freshmart since 1988 and has owned it for the last seven years. Over the last several years Craig says he had to work seven days a week to keep the lights on, often by himself for most of the day.
“It’s hard to keep a store this size going with the overhead that I have, the heating bills, the tax bills, everything else, it was just impossible to keep in going,” he said.
“I tried for a long time and probably should have done it sooner, but I guess you live in hope and you’re always hoping that you’re going to be able to turn it around and make it better.”
When the store closes for the last time in the coming weeks the nearest grocery store will be in St. George, about a 15-minute drive. Mayor Teresa James says the drive will be an inconvenience for most, but others lack the means to make such a trip.
“It’s pretty far for people who don’t have transportation and unfortunately there are some people in our community that struggle with that,” she said.
Craig says that the willingness to travel for groceries is part of what is putting the store out of business. He says the 45-minute drive to Saint John has never been easier and increasing numbers of people are opting to make the trip to shop at big box stores that offer greater variety at lower prices.
“I’m finding we’re getting a lot of competition from just up the road in Saint John. The four-lane highway takes people up quicker to the box stores and it hurts small communities,” he said.
“I think it’s a trend. Small communities are going to be hurt more and more because the access to the city is easier. So small communities are going to feel the pinch eventually and this is one of the consequences of that.”
Once the store closes Craig says he’ll start a position elsewhere “in the industry” and is looking forward to friendlier hours than he’s kept over the last few years, but added that he’ll miss the people he’s used to seeing every day.
“I know the people very well and that’s what I’m going to miss the most is the people of the community. I really like Blacks Harbour itself and I like the people down here, and I’m a people person and that’s what I’m going to miss the most,” he said.
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