BELLVILLE -- The parking lot of Stoodt's Market in Bellville was nearly full Saturday, as long-time customers and shoppers from neighboring towns swarmed to take advantage of a 50-percent off everything sale.
Following weeks of rumors and a dwindling stock, news spread on Facebook that the store is closing Saturday, Jan. 4 at 8 p.m.. However, there was no official statement from the store or its owners. Store employees declined to comment or confirm the store was closing.
Jason and Sarah Potes have owned Stoodt's since January 2016, after purchasing it from Bernie and Sharon Hollar. The Potes declined to comment at the time of publication.
Customers expressed regret that the store may be closing.
"My wife shopped here all the time and is very discouraged about the fact that the store is closing," said Jim Haring, a 50-year resident of Bellville. "She thought, 'How could this happen in Bellville? Such a nice community and the store can't make it.'"
"It was always a go-to for staples -- bread, milk, eggs -- in a pinch," said Renee Freund, a 25-year resident of Bellville.
Bellville native Nancy Greg still recalls visiting the store as a little girl.
"This was a big part of growing up. You'd save up some money, go downtown and buy some penny candy. That was a big deal, especially for us farm kids," said Greg, a 1971 Clear Fork graduate.
She described the store as a community hub.
"When your family brought you grocery shopping, you saw your friends," she said. "It's a social atmosphere. It's Mayberry. We say that proudly."
Founder George Stoodt opened Stoodt's Market in 1926 closer to the center of downtown Bellville. It eventually moved to its current location.
Over the years, it continued to be a place to run into classmates and friends. A place to buy the freshly made donuts the locals swear by. And a first job provider for many of the Valley's teens.
"A lot of our classmates grew up getting to work here. This was a stepping stone," Greg said. "They adapted schedules so that the kids and families who worked here could meet the needs of their own families and school."