Parnell Grocery sells before it closes doors
In a bizarre twist of fate and time, the Parnell Grocery store on 5 Mile Road in Grattan Township changed hands before it even closed its doors on June 14th.
There was no sign for sale on the property across from Saint Pat’s Church, only an orange sheet of paper appeared on the door on Monday before the closing. It read:
“We will be closing after 43 years in business. Thank you for all these years.”
Owner Robert Grile said the capital investment into the new building just got to be too much to bear, on top of the licensing fees and overhead costs associated with the coolers.
“It was a good run, but we’ve had enough,” he said.
Son Matt, who worked the morning shift, agreed.
“I haven’t had vacation for more than three days in a row as long as I can remember,” he said.
Industry insiders say every store has a unique story to tell. Here is the story of the Parnell Grocery from its beginnings until the present.
Most area residents remember the old dilapidated building sitting right on the side of 5 Mile Road housing the original grocery. It had the old bulky oval-like coolers with yellowish handles and three short aisles of groceries.
But, in an era long before supermarkets, the store was truly a grocery carrying meats and cheeses.
“We had a wide array of products,” Grile.
Virginia and Robert Grile purchased the building in May of 1970. The store was one of the few remaining commercial buildings, along with a gas station next door; both are long gone now.
“I don’t miss it,” said Grile standing behind the counter of the brand new store soon after it opened in 2002. A wooden board with the engraved word Parnell decorating the wall, was all that remained from the old store. But, looking back now, Grile said that the new 3,500 square-foot may have been just too big.
“I wanted to sell, but I was forced to build,” he said.
The old building was too deteriorated, and the licenses would not transfer.
Grile has a long history in the grocery business dating back to 1965 when he ran the Midnight Stop in Grand Rapids. And the business has become Grile’s life. His wife Virginia attested to that.
“The store has taken always precedence over the family,” she said. “I married into the business.”
It took a lot of perseverance to make the business with small profit margin work for the entire family. But Grile still managed to get involved with St. Pat’s school and co-chair the parish festival since all their five children attended the private school. On top of that four out of five children have a college education. At some point they all worked at the store.
Grile, who really wanted to be an electrician or an engineer, has always put in long hours into the store. Based on customers’ needs, and if there was a shortage of a particular brand, he would drive to Grand Rapids to get the goods.
He always took good care of his customers even giving them a ride home, when their car wouldn’t start.
“I would do this for any of my customers,” he said.
Also known as a rebel among the area customers and the Grattan Township Board, Grile fought to have a sign by the road.
“It puts us at a competitive disadvantage,” Matt said.
The store was a chatterbox for old timers, who gathered there for morning coffee and talk. Grile was outspoken about politics, even though not in front of just anyone.
“I will miss the customers,” said Grile.
Copyright © 2013 story and photo by Emma Palova