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Green Spot Superette says goodbye to Dalton, Ga., after 60 years

By Alex Green, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Aug. 19--DALTON, Ga. -- When the lights flick off and Green Spot Superette goes dark and quiet this evening, 60 years of commerce will fade into the night.

And remain there.

"It's going to be really hard," said Larry Green, one of the store's owners.

On Monday, he greeted well-wishers and longtime customers, many of whom came by one last time to walk the aisles and remember days and loved ones, some long gone.

Many offered a kind word to the man who for 35 years has put in 60-plus hours a week in here, keeping customer service a priority, never giving in to demands that would warp Green Spot into being more like the big box stores.

"We didn't try to do what the big stores did," Green said. "We tried to do what they didn't do."

Butchers on site, fresh meat and paper bags -- all part of the Green Spot tradition.

Or in Green's words, "old school."

"We were born in the old school," he said, "and the old school loved us."

Green Spot has remained popular with Dalton's older residents who liked how things inside haven't changed over the years.

The store closes at 7 p.m. on weekdays and is closed every Sunday, right in line with many of their schedules.

But this is a world of convenience, and many younger shoppers have eschewed Green Spot and instead chosen the 24-hour, mega grocery chains.

Green said it would take a major investment to bring Green Spot up to where he thinks it could compete with the big supermarkets, by adding non-grocery items and extending hours.

Plus, the store has always paid 100 percent of its employees' health insurance policies. There are now 25 Green Spot employees, and Green's insurance is identical to theirs.

Staying in business would mean cutting out, or at least trimming, those benefits -- to which Green said no. He also said no to burning up the savings his father collected on store changes that may or may not grow the business.

So he and the other four Green Spot owners chose goodbye.

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It's hard, but reality, said Mike Maret, a 42-year-old Dalton resident.

Every Saturday morning, he shops for groceries at Green Spot.

Its aisles are where he tagged along as a kid behind his mother. And where his daughters now tag along behind him.

"I'm a local Daltonian, born and raised, and I've been going to Green Spot all my life," he said. "It's definitely going to be missed."

When Green Spot announced its imminent closing, Maret looked around for a new go-to store. He's decided on The Chop Shop nearby in Byrum's Plaza. There, like at Green Spot, there are fresh meats and butchers on hand.

Maret hasn't been back to Green Spot since liquidation of its inventory began. He doesn't want to see the shelves empty.

"It's just not the same," he said.

On Monday, there were lines of bare metal shelving in the store, the result of a 40 percent markdown on everything.

And a few blocks away, there were rumors: that on Green Spot's heels is a chain grocery store, moving into Bryman's Plaza.

And that's true, though Bryman's Plaza owners won't say which chain it is yet.

Whatever the name, Sarah Hooker said it can't stack up to her years of experience with Green Spot and its associates.

"It would never replace it -- no," she said.

Green doesn't expect that any store will recreate what Green Spot has done over the years. He's proud of this place, of this legacy -- even if it isn't necessarily what he was after.

"It wasn't my dream to be a grocery store owner," he said. "It wasn't my dream to be rich."

Not that he's hated it, because he hasn't. He's carried on his father's work. He's made a living and met a lot of people along the way.

But now he's ready to rest, to actually sit down, to finish his book and spend more time on his pastoral ministry.

"It was my dream to be the best at what I love," he said Monday. "And that's what I'm going to do."

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480.

___

(c)2014 the Chattanooga Times/Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.)

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Visit the Chattanooga Times/Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.) at www.timesfreepress.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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