Genesee’s lone grocery store closes its doors

The Genesee Food Center, the town’s only grocery store, closed Friday. Residents say the closure will negatively impact almost everyone in the community, regardless of how often they shop there.

GENESEE — Genesee’s only grocery store closed Friday after serving this rural Palouse town for decades.

Zions Bank foreclosed on the Genesee Food Center store as well as the Troy Market in downtown Troy and now owns both properties, said Latah County Treasurer BJ Swanson.

Troy Market stopped operation in November.

The stores were owned by Garry Collins, according to Latah County Commissioner Dave McGraw. A Genesee Food Center manager refused to comment, aside from confirming the store was closing.

Locals mainly used Genesee Food Center to grab a few items when needed, and do their primary grocery shopping in Moscow or Lewiston, where they work, Genesee residents and city officials said.

But some, especially residents who are older, disabled or don’t own a vehicle, used the store to buy all their groceries, they said.

Vanessa VanLeuven, who co-owns Stomping Grounds Coffeehouse in Genesee with her husband, Keith, said she bought milk and eggs from Genesee Food Center about once a week when she ran out of the essential items at her coffee and breakfast shop. She also has relied on the store for ice if her business’s machine is not working, she said.

When she learned the grocery store was closing, VanLeuven said she started working to purchase an ice machine to put outside her business.

“I think it’s going to affect everyone in the community, whether they only went there to get one thing or 20,” she said.

The store stocked a wide variety of items — snacks, pizza, fried chicken, delicatessen sandwiches, frozen foods, produce, toiletries, liquor, beer, wine and even cat food, greeting cards and motor oil.

It was the only place in town to buy over-the-counter medications to treat a fever, said Chelsea Wallace, a Genesee resident.

Numerous high school students would go to the food center at lunch, and a great number of people went there during sporting events for chips and soda, said Kristin Hoshauer, an employee at Stomping Grounds Coffeehouse.

“It’s going to be a huge impact for the older community (residents),” she said.

Some Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative employees at the processing plants east of town often grabbed lunch at the store, said Katie Schmidt, a commodities clerk at the cooperative.

She and her colleagues at her office, which is located across the street from the store, would purchase cookies and chips for meetings, she said.

“From my point, it’s not going to hurt us, but it is really nice to have the convenience when you’re in a pinch to go grab something — so people will miss it,” Schmidt said.

Even Uniontown residents used the store because they don’t have one in their town, and several people — especially farmers during summer — bought ice from the store, said Yvonne Watts, one of four employees at the store.

“It’s going to be a hardship on quite a few people, including myself,” Watts said. “I’m a single mom.”

Genesee Mayor Steve Odenborg, 65, has lived his entire life in Genesee and estimates the store was at the its location in the 200 block of Chestnut Street for about 50 years. He remembers when there were two grocery stores in town.

City officials are trying to draw businesses into Genesee, so he hates to see one shut down. He hopes someone will fill the grocery store void.

“No one wants to see it closed,” Odenborg said.

Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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