Store closes after 84 years, community reflects on memories
GRAND CHAIN, Ill. — There was a time when the general store was the beating heart of the rural American town. Friday, another town lost its heart. Huebotter's Store closed for good.
Now many are wondering how they can pump life back into their town.
Things are done the old-fashioned way at Huebotter's.
"I'm noticing that small-town America seems like it's drying up," said Guy Inman.
People here buy just what they need.
"We kept holding off, praying that we would not have to close," said Candace Ellis.
For years, Ellis helped her mother-in-law Joyce order groceries for the store. Joyce's father Paul Huebotter opened the store back in 1928.
What's inside shows all the history there, pieces of a simpler time, a different life. And for those here, Huebotter's is their community.
"The store is viable. It made a living. But there's nobody here to take it and put their heart and soul in it and run it," said Robert Inman.
Inman is a local farmer. He said he will soon have to drive about 30 miles to the nearest store, making small-town living a thing of the past.
The decision to close came about three weeks ago but the concerns had been around for a while.
The store wasn't making the money to stay open.
"Joyce has been here literally her whole life, ever since she was born and her father started it," said Ellis.
With a heavy heart Joyce Ellis sat, watching the time tick by, unable to talk about the doors closing Friday.
But the pain for her was eased by customers who've become friends, folks grateful for the years and the memories made.
The merchandise left behind will be boxed up and auctioned off at the store Feb. 18 at 10 a.m.
The family told us they will not be selling the building. It will stay vacant for some time but they are considering donating it.