After seven decades in one location or another in Beaufort, the Piggly Wiggly grocery store now at 1900 Boundary St. is closing at the end of February, manager Donald Goodwine said.
Employees got the word Friday, he said.
The Beaufort store is one of three left in Beaufort County, and the only one of those scheduled to close, corporate spokesman Christopher Ibsen said. The Port Royal location is corporately owned and will not close, and the Hilton Head Island location at Coligny is privately owned.
"It's just not a store that is performing as well as we hoped," Ibsen said.
He attributed part of that to changes in the area around the store, which has gradually become more commercial and less residential.
The Feb. 28 closing date is subject to change, Ibsen said, based on how quickly its current inventory sells.
More than 50 employees work at the Beaufort store, some of whom could be relocated to the Port Royal or Ridgeland stores. Some could also be transferred to the Price Wise in Hardeeville, Goodwine said.
"It's like someone has died," he said.
The store was packed Monday, as shoppers loaded up carts to take advantage of the 25 percent-off sale.
"The interaction with the community and employees, that's what I miss already," said Goodwine, who has been at the location since it moved to Boundary Street from a spot downtown on Port Republic Street in 1987. "We've had people calling, coming in, crying."
Stocking up Monday and pushing shopping carts loaded to the brim were regular customers Cleophus Mitchell and Mecca Major, who live down the street.
Major said she'll now have to walk to Bi-Lo, which worries her. She said elderly customers will have farther to go for their groceries.
Tasha Powell has worked off and on since 1994 at the Piggly Wiggly, in several positions. She filled a buggy with several pounds of meat and fish Monday before reluctantly handing over her store keys.
"It's hard; it's really, really hard. ... I came here right out of high school, and I've grown up shopping here, and while I've been employed here, they're all like family," she said.
This is the third Piggly Wiggly in Beaufort County to close in the past six months. The Bluffton store closed in the fall and reopened as a Bi-Lo, after that chain bought 22 Piggly Wigglys in South Carolina and Georgia.
The Shelter Cove Piggly Wiggly on Hilton Head Island has closed. A Whole Foods is expected to open in the location later this year.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.