After 42 years, DeVries closes its doors

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After 42 years, DeVries closes its doors

Lars Lonnroth

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Since the 1990s, Wayne DeVries arrived early in the morning to go through the assortment of 25 to 30 tasks he had to do prior to opening the doors of his store to the public, he estimated: turning the lights on, cleaning the store, unloading trucks, making sure everything’s in tip top shape for his customers.

But on the morning of Oct. 7, DeVries Grocery and Market opened its doors for the last time bringing an end to its 42 year reign on Addison Avenue in La Grange, as profits fell too far to justify the amount of time they put in, DeVries said.

“42 years of work. I mean, it’s like you’re thinking 42 years have gone by like that. And we’ve had a lot of fun, but we had to know when to close,” DeVries said. “It’s been a lot of love, a lot of sweat and it’s just another part of our life we’re going to move on [from].”

The owners of the store, two brothers, bought the business from their father back in the ‘90s and have done what they can to keep it afloat in the past couple of years. However, after tinkering with possible ways to increase revenues, DeVries said, they ran out of strategies to increase their decreasing sale numbers.

Over the course of the going out of buisness phase, DeVries walked the depleted, barren aisles as customers approached him, making their melancholy known. Sharing the fond memories they acquired throughout their time shopping with the store, they purged their emotions as DeVries stood there listening to what the store had meant to them.

“There are some people who need closure for them and need to spill their guts to us, and we are open to that,” DeVries said. “They are angry or sad, and they just want to come and tell us and give us hugs; that was their closure.”

“We were taught to take care of that customer, and that is still embedded in us, even though we are closed,” DeVries said. “We still want to answer that door, still open that door, answer the phone call, and still treat it like we are still open.”

Over the years, DeVries has employed around 450-500 LT students, DeVries estimated, and have provided many students their first job.

DeVries, like many family owned stores, have struggled to compete with major chain grocery stores, which are able to acquire merchandise cheaper than stores that are family owned, DeVries said. While they attempted to compensate with great customer service, that wasn’t enough.

Cathy Van Horne, a cashier of 17 years at the store, cited chain grocery stores, which the store’s website dubs as the “big box goliaths,” as the cause of DeVries sinking sales number and expressed her shock over the news.

“I was hoping to stay here forever,” Van Horne said. “[But] with the big stores- Mariano’s, Jewel Osco, Trader Joe’s- the mom and pop stores couldn’t stay around forever.”

The discussions over closing the store—which first came to the table two years ago—were finalized a few days before the announcement of the closure. The DeVries first informed their family and employees before making the information public, DeVries said.

Once the news of the stores impending closure broke, many of the store’s most ardent customers, some of whom have shopped at the store for all of it’s 42 years, flocked to the store to say their goodbyes.

“Wayne and Dick are like friends; they are part of the community,” Steve Huneryager, a customer of 22 years, said. “You come in, you chat, you grab a pretzel, they take great care of you, they help load your car if you need, they are just very personable.”

Now that the store is closed, the remainder of the food will be sent off to the food pantry as they look for tenants to take over the store location.

Photo by Cain Nocera ’19.

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