Crescent City's only locally owned, independent grocery store is going out of business.
Pacific Market, for decades a retail fixture at the corner of Pacific Avenue and Del Norte Street, will close on Nov. 10.
Mark and Sherry Ephland, who have owned the small neighborhood market for 22 years, are retiring.
"We're going to retire and do a little traveling," Sherry Ephland said.
Pacific Market's 18 employees were told this week that the store was going out of business.
Ray's Food Place, the Brookings-based supermarket chain, will buy some fixtures and remaining inventory after Pacific Market shuts its doors for good, according to Larry Hage, general manager of the Ray's chain.
"We've also told the employees (of Pacific Market) that they would be welcome to apply for any jobs we might have open," Hage said. "Good employees are one reason customers shop where they shop and Pacific Market has great people. We'd be very happy to have their customers see those people's faces at Ray's."
Ephland said she and her husband do not own the building that houses Pacific Market. They lease the property from a trust controlled by the family of the late Louis Tosio, a longtime Crescent City businessman.
Asked if they had attempted to sell the business before deciding to close the store, Sherry Ephland said, "I don't want to answer that."
Longtime customers were not taking news of the imminent store closure well.
"I'm just very upset and sad about it," said Roxanne Garman, who lives three blocks from the store and has been a regular shopper there since she moved into the neighborhood 12 years ago.
"Pacific Market is a friendly, old-fashioned grocery store," Garman said. "It's one of those places where everybody knows you. My daughter has a special diet and, when I'm in there, the checker will ask me, Do you need any Lacy milk today?' They know what you like, what you need."
Garman, who works as a lab technician at Sutter Coast Hospital, said she is concerned about how the store closure will affect her elderly and low-income neighbors, who she said rely on Pacific Market for everyday shopping.
"There are a lot of single moms and low-income people in this neighborhood," she said. "There is a big low-income senior housing complex here. Many of those people don't have vehicles.
"Now, they can walk to the store to do their shopping. But a lot of them aren't going to be able to walk all the way down to (the supermarkets on Highway) 101 to buy groceries."
Sherry Ephland said she too is sad the store is closing.
"I'm going to miss my customers and my employees," an obviously emotional Ephland said.
"In a small store like this you really get to know people. I've watched families grow up in here. Kids who used to come in and buy candy are now adults and now I see their children in here."
Carolyn Doering, Pacific Market's 27-year-old manager, was once one of those kids.
"I grew up just down the street, and I came in here all the time with my mom," said Doering, who now has two children of her own. "I'd walk right past the store on my way to and from school and a lot of times I'd stop in and buy something to eat."
Doering, who started working part time in Pacific Market's deli when she was 15 years old, was promoted to manager six months ago.
"I love this store," Doering said. "People are just like family in here. I feel just terrible about this. I'd rather be fired than have the store close."
Nobody seems to know exactly how long Pacific Market has been in business in Crescent City.
"We bought the store 22 years ago and I know it had been around for a while even back then," Sherry Ephland said.
Longtime Crescent City businessman Bill Sullivan, who retired and closed his Baker and Stanton appliance store earlier this year, said he remembers Pacific Market from his teen-age years back in the 1950s.
"I know it was a going concern back when I was in high school," Sullivan said. "It's been around a long, long time."
Pacific Market is perhaps best known around Crescent City for its custom meat counter, where white-aproned butchers still cut steaks and grind hamburger in front of customers. It also has an in-store deli and carries fresh produce, a selection of canned goods, baked items and snack foods, plus various household sundries.
But in today's super-sized business world, Pacific Market is something of a retail relic. The store is considerably smaller than the newer chain supermarkets in Crescent City.
Some customers do the majority of their food shopping at Pacific Market, Ephland and Doering said, but many others use the market more like a convenience store. That can be a tough business niche especially for a store trying to offer full-line selection.
"The grocery business is a very competitive business. It can be extremely tough for the little guy," said Hage, general manager of Ray's.
Ray's operates 29 supermarkets in Oregon and 20 in Northern California. The smallest store in the chain is about 7,500 sq. feet still bigger than Pacific Market and most are much bigger, he said. The Ray's in Crescent City, on Highway 101, is about 30,000 sq. feet.
Even so, Pacific Market's young manager said she thinks the little neighborhood grocery store could survive if given a chance.
"I know (the Ephlands) are ready to retire, and I understand that," she said. "But business has been good. I think we could make it. We're all wishing someone would come along and save the store."