TOLER, Ky. - As of the close of business on Jan. 31, Velocity Market will not reopen again for business at the Toler, Ky., location.
The grocery store, which employees 25 people, is already opening on a reduced-hours schedule, closing at 6 p.m. each day rather than their normal time of 9 p.m.
Mark Leisure, general supervisor for the Pike County grocery chain, said that of all the locations owned and operated as Velocity Market, Toler is the only one at this time that will be shutting its doors. The stores in Pikeville, Zebulon, Betsy Layne and Elkhorn City will remain open for business as usual.
Leisure noted that although all of Pike County has taken a hit with the downward economic spiral that is mostly due to the declining coal industry, it appears to the owners of Velocity Market that the Belfry, South Williamson, Hardy and other communities that surround Toler have been affected in a more profound way than that of the remainder of the county.
“We’ve weathered many storms throughout the 40 years that we’ve been in business,” Leisure said. “But this time around, it had continued to get worse with no end in sight.”
Leisure commented that he hates this for the employees that depend on their paychecks to help support themselves and their families, and said that some of them are veteran employees who have worked at this location for many years. Out of the 25 workers losing their jobs, only one will be transferring to another Velocity Market location.
“Our employees are like family to us, and that made the decision to close the Toler location harder than ever.”
Matthew May, who manages the Toler location, told the Daily News that the announcement of the closure took them all by surprise, and said it also had the same effect on the public when they heard the news.
“We’re still in shock … this is very upsetting to all of us,” May said. “We’ve had so many people stopping in to ask if they had been told correctly, saying they were hoping it was just a rumor. They expressed their sadness over the closure, especially those who live nearby and have been regular customers of ours for years.”
Patricia Etters, a resident of Hardy, Ky., said she was very upset about the closing and said that she stops at the Toler location at least twice a week on her way home from work.
“I love their selection of fresh meat,” Etters said. “I hardly ever purchased meat at other local stores. I’m not quite sure now where I will shop at.”
May commented that she had heard that other grocery store chains have expressed interest in the Toler location, and said she hopes that is true and that the store will be reopened with a similar line of products and warm, friendly service.
“This is just another drop in the bucket of closed businesses in the Tug Valley area,” Etters said. “Funny to me that Pikeville is still growing in leaps and bounds and this portion of the county just keeps losing one after another business. I think the men and women that we elect to office should remember that we are as important as those who reside in Pikeville, and they should be doing everything they can to help us sustain businesses instead of just worrying about what else they can open up over there.”
“We’re going to be living in a ghost town before long if things don’t change for this portion of Pike County, as well as those living across the river in Mingo County,” she said. “This is truly a sad time we’re living in and I pray God will have mercy on all of us.”