A family-owned grocery store on Madison Street will be closing its doors at the end of the month, ending a more than two-decade run for the local business. Sav-Er Grocery, at 7404 Madison St., will serve its last customer on July 31.
Harry Patel, a native of India who bought the business in 1987, said the property owner announced three months ago that he would be putting the space up for lease unless Patel could afford an increase in the rent. Patel’s lease ends on Aug. 15, he said, and he cannot afford the new rate.
Sav-Er Grocery has catered largely to working class customers and is a no-frills store stocked with staples. Hand written signs announcing deep discounts encourage customers to take what’s left on the already barren shelves a little more than one week before closing.
After 20 years behind the counter with his wife, children and nephew, Patel, 65, said the business has afforded his family a nice living and he will go quietly.
“I’m going to retire,” Patel said.
The business was opened by another Forest Park family several years before Patel took over. Freminnie Jodoin’s father, James Moccio, was the original proprietor. Jodoin now runs a restaurant almost directly across the street from Sav-Er with her husband, Jimmy.
In 1972, Patel left his family and a job as a mathematics professor in India to look for prosperity in America. He worked odd jobs for several years while earning a degree in electrical engineering. Once his wife and two children joined him in the States, Patel landed a job with his degree, but was laid off when the company was bought out. Despite having no experience in running a small business, Patel bought the Forest Park store while his wife, now retired, continued her career after also earning an engineering degree. She moonlighted at the Sav-Er on nights and weekends, Patel said.
“I came (to America) with only $8 in my pocket,” he said.
As a strong believer in education, Patel is proud that his son and daughter-now both in their late 30s-were able to attend school and find work as a marketing consultant and a pharmacist, respectively.
“I invested my money in my kids,” Patel said.
Real estate agent and Forest Park resident David King is listing the 4,300-square foot property for the owner, Midwest Property Group, Ltd. Though he declined to say who specifically has inquired about the site, King said several businesses have expressed “preliminary interest.” An apparel store and a restaurant are among the potential lease holders, King said, but so far there have been no “substantive negotiations.”
Ideally a new tenant will open for business prior to the winter holidays, King said.
“I believe we will upgrade the tenancy of the building, not to take anything away from the current tenant,” King said. “That’s been the trend on Madison Street since the street was reconstructed in 1999.”
Laurie Kokenes, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said stores like Sav-Er will continue to feel pressure to turn open as long as property values keep rising. This gentrification certainly has its benefits, Kokenes said, but the mix of social classes–and the businesses they frequent–has worked well in Forest Park.
“I think it makes the street unique to have a store like Sav-Er Grocery,” Kokenes said.