A longtime staple of Kennett area commerce will close its doors on Feb. 21. The Acme Market, which has been the lynchpin of the New Garden Shopping Center since 1979, will start emptying out its contents the next day and send its employees to jobs at other Acme markets, according to company spokeswoman Taryn Duckett.Store Manager Larry Stevens said he has known for some time that the New Garden store was on the chopping block and would probably be closed with the opening of the new store on Route 41 in London Grove Township. He added that due to delays in the environmental approvals at the new store, which pushed back opening day, the New Garden store actually stayed open longer than he expected.

According to Stevens and Duckett, all of the employees at the New Garden store have been offered jobs at nearby Acme markets. With that news, Stevens was pleased. "I'm happy that all the associates will be placed," he said.

Reaction among several of the staff members was mixed.

Chuckie Hartman, who cleans up and collects carts said, "I like it. I get to go to another store or [another store in this shopping center]."

Veteran cashier Martha Dunn, who has been at the register for 35 years, was not so happy. "I'm heartbroken that the store is closing. ... I have to decide whether to go to another store or retire, but I'd like to stay here and work," she Duckett said the company decided to close the New Garden store because the new store in London Grove is only 3.1 miles away and is updated to serve customers with a stress on "premium fresh and healthy" foods. The new store is also 6,000 square feet larger.

She said the new store highlights its perishable department along with specialty sections like seafood, tea and easy-to-prepare menus.

"We want to offer the best to our customers. If we have to close a store to expand, that's something we will do," she said.

Duckett added that Acme always tries to "find an area where we're needed." The company will soon build another Acme in Concord Township and has still another store in nearby Hockessin, Del.

"One of the great things about Acme is we have a loyal customer base. I don't anticipate the loss of business [among Kennett Square customers]. We expect many of the customers to go to the London Grove store," she said.

Duckett said the trucks will start coming in on Feb. 22 and take the major portion of the food to other stores. Some of it will be sent to food banks, and the company expects to sell as much as possible before the closing.

The Acme Market has been in the New Garden Shopping Center for 29 years. The previous Kennett Square

Acme was in the building that is now occupied by the Rite Aid drug store at Mill Road and State Street at the west end of Kennett Square for decades until it was relocated to New Garden.

Founded in 1891, Acme Markets was bought by Albertsons in 2000, which sold the chain to Supervalu in mid-2006.

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