Dave's Country Market is winding down business. Dave Nicholas, the owner and former Boonville Mayor, spoke with the Daily News about his three decades-worth of business in Boonville.
The scene at Dave's Country Market on Tuesday was one of handshakes, back-patting and hugs. Inventory steadily left the shelves after it had been there in one form or another for more than three decades. Customers, past and present, were there to say goodbye and thank you – and to take advantage of reduced prices – after owner and former Boonville Mayor, Dave Nicholas, announced that the local grocer would close its doors permanently.
"We've had probably three-fourths of the town that's worked here at some point and we've had some great employees and customers.That's what's been going on today – most of the people that have come in have been past customers and past employees. Boonville's been good to us. We've always had the philosophy that you've got to put back some of what you take out. It's been a good team, it really has," Nicholas said.
After 34 years, only one other native grocer will be left in town. Nicholas' three other stores, located in Tipton, Windsor and Lexington, will remain open. Specifically, what will the Nicholas family do now, readers may ask?
"We have three other stores. That's going to keep us busy, of course. My son joined the business after he got out of school – Chris really wants to grow, so we'll probably look at possibly making some more acquisitions somewhere, but at a slower pace maybe. What we're going to do right now is just get through this ordeal – it's heartbreaking because of the 34 years here. We'll get this one shut down and will concentrate on our existing stores in Tipton, Windsor and Lexington. Another sad thing is that we'll probably relocate because I like to live where I have a business. But, that won't be for six months to a year away. We'll look at maybe adding a store here or there and getting Christopher more involved with it," he said.
Nicholas expanded on Boonville's Market closing and the reasons behind his decision. Clearly, the decision was difficult for the former Mayor.
"With the economy as it is, it's just hard to survive. It's hard to make your expenses. I think it's a combination of things. It's hard for three grocery stores in a town of this size to survive because your margins are so minimal. It's an economic decision to make for us to move on. It was Thursday night before I really decided what we were going to do, but it was time. Sometimes you have to let the horse rest and move on. I've been humbled by the kind words because I don't – we've always tried to be a business partner – we've always tried to support the community because it's to everyone's advantage. If you make your community better then it's going to make your businesses better – and it's going to make people want to move to your community, which is going to create more business," said Nicholas
Well-known in the Boonslick is the Nicholas' family's community involvement and charitable work. Many residents, we found, shopped there because of it.
"We've never done things to be boisterous. That's not why we do it. We tried to be involved in everything that was available. We were involved in schools. We were involved in communities. We've always made a commitment to put money back in our communities and to be involved in it. My wife and I, our family – we've served on boards, committees – I was Mayor for four years. We felt like – again if you want to be a part of the community, you've got to live with the community and you've got to be where you are," he said.
Dave's Country Market currently employs 54, though the store has had as many as 82 working within their walls at one time. Numerous employees have more than 15 and 20 years with the company – the longest-serving being about 30. Nicholas has provided each current-serving member of his team with the option to relocate one of his other stores.
"That's the hardest part. This building is brick and mortar and when things break, you fix them. When you have family involved, when you make critical decisions like this, it affects livelihoods and hearts. We don't have employees – we have extended family members. They're all like brothers, sisters and kids," Nicholas said.
Dave's will be closing its doors, but possibly not for a few days.
"I'm going day to day. My plans are that I will definitely be closed no later than the 24th. But, we've been mobbed – a lot of it is people coming in crying and wanting to share old memories. A lot of it is, of course, taking advantage of the values that we're having. I most definitely will be open through the rest of this week. If inventory is still here, then we'll go longer. But, I definitely will not be open past the 24th," he said.
Nicholas' name will remain on the lease at the grocery store for another year yet, though he doesn't know yet if he'll seek to sublease it to another tenant.
"Our main plan right now is to get the building empty and I'll move some of the equipment around to some of the other locations, then we'll turn the key on it. I'll still have an office here for a while, since I still have the building. My wife and I are not going to be moving immediately. We ultimately will, but I'll be down here almost every day to check on things before I travel to the other stores. What the situation will be here – Bob Bechtel owns the building and has for years. I'm not sure and I've not talked with them other than the fact that we're closing," said Nicholas.
Readers of this story can access Facebook comments the Daily News received in appreciation of the years of business and community partnership the Nicholas family provided area citizens.
"I can't tell you the number of kids that have come through these doors and worked here and gone on and done great. That's what makes it all worthwhile. We've had wonderful people working here and the consumers of Boonville have been fantastic. We don't have any harsh words. It's been a good ride. Sometimes, things just run their course. When the course is run, you have to say that's all there is. But, it's saddening to a degree because of all the memories that you have in any business – not just mine – when you're in a position for 34 years, you see people grow up and it makes it a lot more difficult to close. Hopefully, the people will support the community and the remaining businesses in town. Our heart is with Boonville because it's been home to us," Nicholas said.