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Friday, September 14, 2012

So long, ShopRite

After 30 years, SML's first supermarket, and a lake landmark, closes.

Owner Lewis Creasey and employee Kristi Shrader, who has worked at ShopRite for 25 years.

SHERESE GORE Laker Weekly

Owner Lewis Creasey and employee Kristi Shrader, who has worked at ShopRite for 25 years.

The trickle of customers who walked into the Moneta ShopRite had few choices from which to make a selection on as the long-time lake fixture got ready to close its doors for the final time on Sept. 7.

ShopRite, Smith Mountain Lake's first supermarket, opened in 1982. Lewis Creasey, who worked for the Winn-Dixie chain for 23 years, purchased the store in 1994 from a former Winn-Dixie co-worker, Phil Rife, and his wife, Sandy.

Independent of chain ownership, ShopRite was one of the few supermarkets to offer gasoline sales at the time. Area shoppers also could purchase items specific to the lake - inflatable water toys and fishing paraphernalia such as nightcrawlers and catfish bait, Creasey said.

In 2005, the store moved from the building now occupied by Eastlake Community Church to a 30,000-square-foot facility located near the intersection of Virginia 122 and Diamond Hill Road.

Creasey's Winn-Dixie roots would make a reappearance as many of the meat cases, checkout lanes and shelves in the new building were puchased during the auction of the Winn-Dixie building in Rocky Mount.

Now those shelves are empty.

While the economy is to blame for the store's downfall, Creasey said, two other factors hastened the supermarket's demise: the opening of the Food Lion almost directly across from ShopRite and the relocation of the Diamond Hill Road intersection, which he said "was very instrumental" to the store's closing.

Tactics such as reducing inventory to mitigate the decrease in sales, "trying to do everything I could to survive," he said, proved unsuccessful.

In February, the building was put up for sale; a Christiansburg investment group is slated to purchase the property. The sale date, originally set for Sept. 7, has been postponed to Sept. 26, but the store's last open day was Sept. 7, Creasey said.

Long-term employee Kristi Shrader of Glade Hill said she is saddened by the store's closing. ShopRite was like "a good old hometown," said Shrader, who had been employed at the supermarket for nearly 25 years.

Former teachers and classmates, in addition to long-term repeat customers, were some of the customers who would drop by to talk.

"Mainly, it's the people that made it," she said. "It's been real emotional for everyone, not just the employees."