Community loses ‘corner store’ because of competition from large grocery stores

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The closing of a longtime grocer marks the end of an era in the Armourdale neighborhood.

New, larger markets are opening nearby, and the owner says shutting down is one of the hardest decisions he’s ever had to make.

Lipari Brothers Thriftway has been a cornerstone in the neighborhood for 58 years.

The corner grocery is fast becoming extinct, replaced by mega-markets with a dizzying array of choices. But the convenience of being able to walk to this store made many customers loyal to doing their shopping here.

“Competition moving in,” owner John Lipari said in explaining the decision to close. “The area has no room for growth so the more stores that come in, it just takes a little bit more away from you. So you know, we could see it coming over the last five or six years. But we hung in there as long as we could.”

Since 1956, the grocery has specialized in the basics for those who live nearby. The store has survived a flood and families moving out of Armourdale. But it has also earned the trust of those who stayed and new immigrants moving in, by treating customers like family and knowing nearly everyone by name. With a new market nearby on 18th Street an another opening soon, Thriftway customers told FOX 4 News it’s the atmosphere that keeps them coming back, and what they’ll miss the most.

“Sad mostly,” said William Vernon, who worked at the store as a teen. “Because I mean it’s just something, it’s almost like losing your parents almost. It’s just something that’s always been here and you always think it’s always going to continue to be here. And now it’s not going to be.”

Customers rave about the meat department at Lipari’s Thriftway. Fresh meat and homemade Italian sausage from a family recipe brought people in from all around the Metro. Lipari says he’s going to find a way to continue to make the sausage after the store closes. And customers like Vernon say they’re not looking forward to the crowds a new Wal-Mart grocery is expected to draw when it opens on 18th Street.

Many of Lipari’s workers are from the neighborhood, and have worked for the grocer for more than 10 years.
Lipari had a habit of hiring his customers’ children. It reinforced the feeling of family at this business. That’s something customers say will be difficult to find shopping somewhere else.

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