Stung by the economy, lawmaker sells family grocery store

12/14/2010 09:57 AM

Independent grocers have become a endangered species, Jimmy Higdon likes to say.

He knows better than almost anyone in Kentucky. After watching fellow small grocers fold in nearby Nelson and Washington counties, Higdon, the Republican state senator from Lebanon, last week sold Higdon’s Foodtown IGA in Lebanon. The business had been in his family for six decades.

Higdon sold the store to the Sav-A-Lot in Lebanon, which will move to that location. Jan. 22 will be the Higdon Foodtown’s last day, he said.

“It’s an offer I wouldn’t have taken a year ago,” Higdon said. “But the grocery business is a tough business. We’ve had our third bad year.”

The store was hit by the economy, in general, as well as increased competition in the area from Walmart and a Walgreens that opened up across the street.

“And I’m probably not as good of a grocery manager as I used to be,” said Higdon, referring to the increased demands on him from Frankfort now that he’s a senator. (Of course, he did take down a shoplifter earlier this year, as shown on a video posted by his son, Jim Higdon, on the political site, Marion County Line.)

Higdon served in the state House starting in 2003 before winning a special election to the 14th state Senate district in 2009.

The store has been in his family for 60 years. His uncle started it in 1950. Higdon became a partner with him in 1976 and bought out his uncle in 1992.

“I hated to be the one — on my watch — who sold it,” Higdon said.

He said he mostly feels bad for the longtime employees whose employment now is uncertain. Some of them have been with the store for 30 years.

Higdon also owns an appliance store, which he will continue to own.

- Ryan Alessi

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