West Virginia's Clay County loses only grocery store

Published: Jul. 11, 2019 at 2:26 PM EDT
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Clay County's only grocery store has been closed since June 24 and may never reopen.

a sign on the door of Clay IGA says it is "temporarily closed," but former employee Rocky Keener told the paper he believes it is closed permanently.

The store's owner, Pamela Widener-Stout, declined to comment on the closure. She filed for bankruptcy protection June 21 under the name Clay Foods.

County Commissioner Connie Kinder said the closure is "devastating" to the county of 9,360 people. "I don't know what we're going to do. You can't get good food."

Without a full service grocery store, the options for fresh fruit and vegetables and butchered meat are limited.

A small, locally-owned supermarket in Bickmore, about 10 miles from Clay IGA, offers a limited selection of fresh produce and meat. And during the summer and fall, residents can buy some fresh vegetables and fruits at local farmers markets.

Small freezer sections in the local pharmacies and dollar stores mostly sell pizzas, bags of fried meat and desserts. A few stores offer little packages of deli meats.

Kinder notes that food prices at non-grocery stores are often high. A gallon of 2-percent milk at a Clay pharmacy sold for $4.19 recently, while a gallon of 2-percent milk at the Elkview Kroger, the closest Kroger to Clay, was $2.29.

One-fourth of the county's residents live below the federal poverty line, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, making it difficult to travel long distances to supermarkets.

Kinder noted many Clay County residents also are elderly or disabled.

There is no public transportation in the county, and the senior center in the town of Clay doesn't offer transportation to supermarkets.

Clay lost its previous grocery store in 2015, and Widener-Stout opened the IGA in the same location four months later.

Speaking at a county commission meeting on Wednesday, Kinder said she will reach out to grocery store chains to implore them to come to the county.

Other county commissioners seemed doubtful.

"There really isn't a whole lot we can do," Clay County Commissioner Greg Fitzwater said. "We'll be lucky if we get anything."

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