“It’s sad. My daughter worked here as a teenager,” long-time customer Michele Graeff, said. “It’s just really sad.”
Those tears, Michele said, come from the heart. And are shared by the store's President, Joe Darrenkamp.
“It’s all good. I mean we’re very blessed,” Joe said. “And it’s just bittersweet.”
Around for nearly 90 years, Joe’s great grandfather started with a horse and buggy, doing business through the streets of Lancaster. The decision to close Darrenkamp’s’ four grocery stores was a tough one, to say the very least.
“I heard it on the news and I was like ‘oh my god’,” Brenda Turner, a shopper, said. “And first thing I had to do was text my good friend who comes here all the time and say ‘oh my god Darrenkamp’s is closing and Giant is moving in,’ and she said, 'oh my god no more chicken salad'."
“Well I was in shock for one thing,” Thomas Herr, the store’s butcher, said. “I just don’t know what to do now. I’ve been doing this for 42 years and I just don’t know where to go.”
Darrenkamp's 690 employees will have an opportunity to interview for comparable positions at the new Giant, as well as other Giant stores nearby. But for Thomas, it's not that easy.
“I’m almost 60 years old,” Herr said. “And it’s - to start over - doing all of that lifting again and all that. It’s going to take a toll on - it takes a toll on me now. I can’t do as much as I use to.”
The industry has changed. It didn’t take much for the Darrenkamp's to see the writing on the wall.
“You read trade magazines and in the next probably 4 to 5 years, 40% of center store, your canned vegetables, laundry detergent, paper towels, will be bought online,” Joe said.
They said now, it's time.
“What’s made the decision even harder was knowing that we’re taking away from the 5th generation and they have an opportunity but yet if we didn’t do this we were afraid that opportunity might not be available 5 years from now,” Joe said.
“It is what it is,” Herr said. “The Darrenkamp’s treated me good. All 22 years I was here. So I can’t ask for much more, ya know?”
Next week they’ll start with their new hours, which is 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. for all of their stores. And they will start reducing prices as part of the liquidating process. As for where Joe will be grocery shopping in the future, he said he's not sure, but he plans on shopping local.