Southtown Market closes

Long-time shoppers and friends chat with Bill Robinson of Robinson's SouthTown Market.

BY PAT FARNELLI

After nearly 40 years of operation as a home town grocery and unofficial community center, Robinson’s Southtown Market closed its doors for the last time on the day before Thanksgiving.

According to neighbor Diane Linaberry, the store was purchased by Bill Robinson sometime after she moved to the area in 1969, after the building changed hands numerous times.

Robinson had worked for the A & P in Monrose, which was located in the building that now houses the Susquehanna County offices on the corner near the courthouse.

Linaberry was impressed by the name choice of “SouthTown Market,” at a time when few acknowledged South Montrose as anything but a lower part of Montrose.

The Robinson family improved and cleaned up the dusty grocery store, and for many years was known for its quality goods and excellent service.

“They delivered groceries to the elderly neighbors, and even to Montrose Square,” says nearby antique store owner Mary Gere.

“Such a loss to our community… everyone is sad, many in tears,” she said.

“No one is as said as I am,” Dave Robinson said, noting his countenance sank when asked for comments about the closing. “I just can’t talk about it.”

Bill Robinson attributed the decision to financial necessity, and the difficulty competing with the big stores like WalMart.

Regrettable as the decision seemed, he said it could not be avoided: “All I can say is this is the nicest town that God ever put on this earth.”

Long-time customer Rick Baker of Brooklyn shook his head at the thought of Robinson’s closing. “Where will we get those salads, that creamy cole slaw? That’s where we ordered our chicken from for church and family barbeques.”

‘We just can’t let the closing happen without letting the Robinson family and their many long time employees hear from us,” Gere said.

She printed up a flyer with this premise: “Let’s all take a few minutes on Thanksgiving eve and show up at the store in mass (Wednesday, about quarter to 5) with an outpouring of neighbors, a “good bye” to let them know how much we will miss them,and the market that has been the center of our community for generations.”

Gere suggested that former customers bring placards, banners, posters, cards, music, horns or whatever they chose, “to show them our thanks and well wishes. ”

Gere and Linaberry suggested buying what food is left on the shelves and donating it to the Trehab Food Bank.

According to Bill Robinson, after the sale is finalized, there will be an auction scheduled, probably in two of three weeks. They declined to give the name of the store’s buyer, as no money has yet changed hands.

Among the faithful attending the closing of the general store were Joyce Stone and LeJune Ely of Dimock, Dick Allen and Paul and Mary Gere of South Montrose.

Allen asked Dave Robinson in resigned indignation, “Where am I going to get my deer ground up?” Dave recalled his years working in the meat room, where he often spent several days of deer season grinding deer for nearly 24 hours at a time.

Robinson’s was also a great resource for cub scout camp at the nearby Central Conservation Camp.

The Geres said that they shopped at the store almost daily. Stone said, “This is the only store where I know exactly where to find everything.”

For more than an hour after closing time, habitual and faithful shoppers kept a vigil of tribute, carrying hand lettered signs of appreciation, hugging the owners, and comforting the weeping cashiers as they made their last purchases. The women and men behind the deli counter were equally distraught.

“The hardest part is Dave, losing Dave as a boss. I’ve only worked here five months, but he was such a good person to work for,” cashier Carrie Smith said.

Heather and Emma Gregory nodded their heads in agreement at nearby cash registers, wiping their eyes as they worked. Some of the employees hope to get another job soon. Most do not have one lined up.

During the closing hour, many customers stopped to thank the Robinson’s for their acts of kindness, for how Dave would load his arms with plastic grocery bags and carry customers purchases to their cars, for grace granted when they were short on cash and had to pay later.

“This  is such a loss for the community,” Stone said. “It was more than a grocery, it was what made it a home town.”