BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — It’s nearly impossible to believe that The Andersons retail stores are closing, but the unexpected news came on Sunday evening and now dismay is settling in. “I was surprised and I am not too happy at all,” said Wanda Gerlach, of Kenton, Ohio, who was shopping at The Andersons in Maumee on Monday. Julie Ferrell, of Custar, Ohio, had heard rumors that a closing was possible. “I heard through the grapevine there were problems. I’m going to miss the store,” she said. The Maumee parking lot was packed on Monday, the day after The Andersons’ January 15 announcement that all four of its retail stores – Maumee, Toledo and two in Columbus – are closing. Calling the decision very difficult, CEO Pat Bowe said several other possibilities were considered, including closing the distribution center, changing the store concept or store hours, closing all but one store or selling them outright – but none of those options would have worked. “We met with an outside consultant and we looked at all of our options,” he said. The store’s lure was unmistakable, with fresh produce, free samples, unique cheeses and employees who knew their customers by name and could help pick out a fine wine, a cut of meat or the right paint for a room renovation. Debbie Rutkowski, of Maumee, who went shopping there Monday, was one of many caught off guard. “I was totally, totally surprised,” she said. “I get all of my produce, my flowers, my meat and everything here. It’s so sad. This is a nice family-run business,” she said. Many took to social media to express their dismay, including Sam Ansara of Waterville. “The only words that come to mind regarding the closing of The Andersons retail stores is sad,” he wrote on Facebook. “There were days when you could go there, pick out a faucet, grab a gallon of paint, get the best deli meats anywhere for lunch, the best baked goods and bread, the best sauces and products and grab some steaks to grill for dinner, all while getting your car’s oil changed and tires rotated. Truly a great place.” According to The Andersons board chairman Mike Anderson, falling sales were not changing despite marketing efforts and investments to turn around the failing stores, which reported a $20 million loss over the past eight years. “Given current consumer buying habits, we expect this downward trend will continue,” Anderson said in a statement. “We would have preferred to be able to see a path to profitability in our future. I cannot express the profound sadness of our company’s leadership and board to have to tell so many wonderful people they no longer have a job with us and so many wonderful customers that we can no longer serve them.” The stores will continue to operate normally through March before liquidation begins. Maumee Mayor Richard Carr learned of the news on Sunday when Anderson phoned him just before the news broke on television. “I understand that it’s a business decision,” Carr said. “It’s sad, particularly because of how many people will be impacted. A lot of employees earning an income are now out of a job.” Approximately 650 positions from the Toledo and Maumee stores will be eliminated, along with 400 positions from the Columbus store. The company says it will provide eligible employees with severance packages and outplacement services to assist them in their career transitioning. Bowe said that employees were well aware of the economic reality facing the retail stores and they took the news remarkably well. “It’s really about the people – they could not have handled it better. They applauded, there were tears shed and hugs,” he said. “The most important thing is that we help them bridge to new employment.” Mayor Carr said the tax implications from the store closing would not adversely affect the city. “Maumee will be fine,” he said. “Our city mainly consists of smaller businesses. That really helps us; we’re not dependent on one big employer.” According to Bowe, The Andersons will actively seek a buyer for the Toledo and Columbus stores as well as The Andersons Mower Center in Maumee. The company will not sell the Maumee store, however, due to its proximity to the rail system and grain plant. Instead, that site will be utilized for something such as a warehouse, he said. The company will also continue to operate a robust grain, ethanol, railcar and plant nutrient firm in Maumee. Mayor Carr is hopeful that those looking for work because of the closing will find it. “The Andersons has been such an important part of the city, and they still are,” he said. “But the retail store is the face of The Andersons and now it’s gone. I just hope businesses reach out to hire those employees who lost their jobs, because most people know that if you worked at The Andersons you are a good employee.”
A Brief History Of The Andersons Stores
- Original Maumee Warehouse Market opened in 1952.
- Maumee store moved to current location in 1972.
- Talmadge Road (Toledo) store opened in 1984.
- Brice Road (Columbus) store opened in 1986.
- Sawmill Road (Columbus) store opened in 1987.
- Stores average 140,000 square feet.
- Stores average 125,000 different SKUs.