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Higdon's Foodtown IGA will be closing next month.
Owner Jimmy Higdon said the store's last day will be around Jan. 22. (This is a slightly earlier date than he had estimated on Friday.)
He said that a tentative purchase agreement has been reached with Houchens Industries, which also owns Sav-A-Lot. Higdon said it was his understanding that the Sav-A-lot located in the Lebanon Trade Center would be moving into the Higdon's Foodtown building around March of next year.
Higdon said Foodtown has 45 employees, 10 of whom are full-time. He added that many of his employees would be offered positions when the Sav-A-Lot moves, but also that he would do what he could to see that his employees are cared for.
"The reason we've been able to survive as long as we have is we have a great team," Higdon said. "I'd put 'em up against anybody."
Higdon said he has been in the grocery business since he worked at the former A&P in 1967.
"I thought I'd be thrilled when I got out of the grocery business, but I'm not," he said.
As a small business owner, he said he is used to cycles of good times and bad times. Usually, the bad times have lasted for a year or less, but Higdon said they've experienced three bad years in a row.
He said there are a variety of factors that contributed to his decision to sell. The opening of the bypass, the bigger Wal-Mart, the new Walgreens and the general state of the economy all affected his decision.
"I have to accept some of the blame, too," he said.
He admitted that he hasn't been in the store as much during the last eight years, which is when he was first elected to the state legislature. He also compared closing the store to a death in the family.
"I do have a heavy heart for my employees and my customers," Higdon said. "They are very important to me."
He also expressed confidence that the change will be beneficial. He pointed out this will leave Lebanon with three grocery stores instead of four.
"Combining my business and Sav-A-Lot will make a very successful store," he said.
Higdon, who is a state senator, said the General Assembly will be in session just four days in January, which will allow him to spend a lion's share of his time at the store that month. He said he doesn't have plans to seek another job at this time, noting that he hasn't received a paycheck from his store for the last two years, but also that he has been fortunate to have other sources of income.
"Independent grocers are like dinosaurs," Higdon said. "There's a few less every year."
Look for more on this story in the Dec. 15 print edition.