Residents, officials try to understand shuttering of Ray’s
Worried over the impending closure of their only grocery store, Smith River residents will have a chance to air their frustrations before elected officials and, possibly, company representatives at a community meeting on Wednesday.
Del Norte County District 3 Supervisor Mike Sullivan, who represents Smith River, said he and his colleague Supervisor Martha McClure will attend the meeting along with County Administrative Officer Jay Sarina.
Rocky Campbell, C&K Market’s vice president of operations, is also expected, said Smith River resident Joni Forsht, who helped organize the meeting. C&K Market owns the Smith River Ray’s Food Place, which is set to close on Aug. 4.
“It’s unfortunate that it’s not the CEO,” Forsht said, adding that she’s lived in the community for 25 years. “Everybody’s really upset, and they’re still not clear on why (C&K) is doing this. They have other stores. They could have done something other than close a market that’s out in the middle of nowhere.”
C&K Market opened the Smith River supermarket 21 years ago, according to a company press release. The company cited rising transportation expenses and increased retail competition as reasons for the closure of the Smith River store.
Once Ray’s closes, residents will have to travel to Crescent City or to the Brookings area for groceries — 13 miles to the south or 12 miles to the north.
Even though he acknowledged that the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors can’t do much to prevent C&K from shutting down the store, Sullivan said supervisors will try to persuade the company forgo its plans or delay the closure.
“We’re going to encourage them as much as possible to put that off, but in the end it’s ultimately C&K Market’s decision,” he said.
The Board will also encourage C&K Market to seek another grocer to move into the storefront at 301 Fred Haight Drive, Sullivan said.
“Maybe that would be one of the advantages of delaying the closing,” he said. “It’s very sad that it’s come to this. It’s really going to negatively affect folks that don’t have the means to get to other grocery stores. We have some people who are basically stuck in Smith River and that is their main way of getting groceries.”
McClure said she too is deeply worried about how Ray’s closing will affect those who don’t have cars. She said she will start researching ways to alleviate impacts that shuttering the store will have on the community.
“We have the Cal Endowment here that wants to have healthy communities and maybe they could help us,” McClure said. “Maybe we could look at a co-op or an ESOP where the employees own the business. I don’t know what opportunities are out there.”
Forsht said Ray’s Food Place used to be her main source for groceries, and even though higher prices led her to shop elsewhere, those who can’t drive don’t have a choice. She said she’s seen many senior citizens and people with disabilities walk or used motorized scooters to get to Ray’s.
“We never thought this was going to happen to us,” Forsht said. “They’ve left us in a big bind, and they did it without warning. There was no warning for the employees or the people in Smith River. ”
The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Smith River Community Hall on First Street.