By Pat Maurer
A Farwell landmark, K & K Thriftway, at 174 West Main downtown, will be closing its doors forever in just two weeks.
The property is being sold to Family Dollar, the century old building will be demolished and a new Family Dollar store will be built on the site, said Thriftway owner Kelly O’Day Tuesday. “April 12 is our closing date,” Kelly said.
K & K is Kelly and wife Karen, who purchased the building and furnishings back in 1996, the building from Charles Denda and the Equipment from Robert and Lisa Jenkins, both previous owners of the grocery store.
The store, which originated as three businesses, may have originally been a theatre, a Post Office and Dawson’s Clothing Store. “According to a date in the basement floor, it was poured in 1912,” Kelly said. “That makes the building – at least part of it – over 100 years old.”
Kelly said one owner, Red Hawk ran it as a grocery, and then Carrow’s Supermarket was located there. When Carrow’s moved out of downtown, Red Hawk came back in. “I was told Carrow’s was moving equipment out as Red Hawk was moving his equipment in,” Kelly said.
Charley and Sandy Denda purchased the store from Hawk and ran it for many years until it was sold to the Jenkins. The store was eventually closed and remained closed for about a year until the O’Days purchased building and equipment in 1996.
“We have been here for 18 years,” Kelly said. “Both of our children, Corey and Michael have worked part-time at the store. Corey presently lives in Chicago and works in retail as well as writing reviews for “The Real Chicago.” Michael lives with his parents at their Stevenson Lake home.
Because of the building’s age, and enormous maintenance and repair costs, Kelly was forced to work in another career to make ends meet. “Karen has been running the grocery for the past ten years by herself,” he said. “She put in a lot of hard work and tons of hours to keep it going.”
“She has built up a close relationship with her customers,” he added, “and this was a hard decision for us, but the supply chain just isn’t there for us anymore. The big stores can buy supplies for much better prices. There just aren’t many small downtown stores anymore.”
Karen said she and Kelly made the decision to close last fall and signed a purchase agreement with Family Dollar. “It is kind of a huge relief, but there are a lot of people I have gotten close to who I’m not going to see anymore, so it is a bittersweet thing.”
She went on, “It’s been so hard to keep it going, mostly because of all of the upkeep. I won’t have to worry anymore about the million things that can happen with the business and building, but I am going to miss the people and being part of the community like I have been for the past 18 years.”
Karen won’t be retiring though. She will be working with husband Kelly in his other business K & K Honey Bee Farm. He has been involved in that business for over ten years, but was buying and bottling honey and distributing that and other supplies for many years before that. “We had the distributing company before we purchased the Thriftway,” Karen said.
K & K Honey Bee Farm houses honey bees at approximately 80 locations in Clare, Isabella, Mecosta and Midland Counties. They have about 2,400 hives now and are in the process of developing twenty new “yards” near Daytona in Florida for overwintering and honey bee production. Son Michael will be moving to Florida to help with the new endeavor.
Until the store closes on April 12, Farwell’s K & K Thriftway will be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.