Closing day for Lambs Garden Home Thriftway will be Saturday, Oct. 19, unless there's nothing left to sell off, in which case the supermarkets that's been a neighborhood institution for at least 40 years will close sooner.
Manager Mike Babbitt tells the SW Connection, "Oct. 19 is the date that this company out of New York that's doing the liquidation for all four Thriftway stores says is the last day."
Besides the Lamb's Thriftway at 7410 S.W. Oleson Road, Miller Family Holdings, the Portland company that owns them, is closing supermarkets in Aloha, Cedar Mill and Lake Oswego by Oct. 19.
"Everybody's going to lose their job," Babbitt said of the workforce at Garden Home. "The state is coming in next week to meet with us all about how to write a rÉsumÉ, how to apply for unemployment and what COBRA is all about," he said, referring to a program that allows workers to maintain their health care coverage at a higher cost. Only the employees in the Meat Department are member of the grocery workers union, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555.
Babbitt says he was surprised when told of the plans to close the store he's worked at for 25 years. "Up until Friday (Sept. 6) I heard from upper management everything was a go and they were only going to close the two Bales Stores (Aloha and Cedar Mill) and at the Lamb's stores we're going to keep everything going forward.
"Then on Tuesday (Sept. 10), they walked into my office, sat me down and said, 'Nope, all four stores are going up for sale.' It took me … yeah … it took me back a little," he said.
"Everybody keeps telling me things will work out. I know they will and there are other opportunities out there. Sometimes it turns out better for you," he said.
Babbitt also is the agent for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission outlet that is part of the Lamb's Marketplace. He's facing the same uncertainty there as he is with the supermarket. He says his liquor store, the post office and the relatively new and apparently successful Garden Home Growlers beer bar in the front of the store, "are all part of the deal. Colin Lamb (owner of the property and the strip mall) is working on trying to keep the three open at least through the first of the year. If it works out, that's great, but right now we're all slated to be done on Oct. 19," Babbitt said.
He's got permission from the liquor commission to look for another site that's not too close to an existing liquor store. He's not sure where he would relocate but has given thought to Multnomah Village and the strip mall at the intersection of Southwest 45th and Vermont. There's also the possibility of relocating within the strip mall where he currently does business.
Babbitt's aware of the buzz on Southwest Portland social media sites about Trader Joe's or Whole Foods taking over the current site.
"Colin Lamb is actually working with a company that works on that. He's got a few leads on a couple of things but nothing in concrete right now. With just a five-week time frame it's hard you know," he said of another operator taking over immediately.
"Right now it is slated to be liquidated. That means that all that's left is four walls. So (Lamb) is trying to possibly block that so that at least the shelving and the cooler stay," Babbitt said.
Days leading up to the closing have been emotional. Shelves are almost bare. Only two check stands are operating and the lines at those are fairly short. One comment on the neighborhood Nextdoor website summed up what a lot of regular shoppers are feeling: "I have shopped there for over 20 years. I did not find them any more expensive then Market of Choice or New Season's. And who else carries your bags out to the car anymore? The Millers really screwed up letting this one slip away. Post office, liquor store, flowers, bank, bakery and until recently a really nice deli. I will really miss that convenience in one location."
Babbitt said, "Really, the community has really reached out to us here and said, 'Hey, if there's anything we can do let us know.' There's a few of the people who worked here who have already given notice and found other jobs. So that's good."
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