Bernard Hollar, Pat Hayes and Georjean Stoodt have been working tirelessly to get a grocery store up and running again at 184 Main St., Bellville.

For as long as Steve Leedy’s been alive, Stoodt’s Market was a prominent entity in his life. He can recall a lot of his favorite childhood memories taking place in that store, but most explicitly the kindness that former owner George F. Stoodt showed him. 

“I can remember on numerous occasions where my graduating class went to Stoodt’s Market and asked for a donation for a raffle ticket for a class reunion, and he never turned you down,” Leedy recalled.  

“He was always generous and gave you a very nice gift to give away in the name of Stoodt’s Market. And so, I’ve always felt like I wanted to contribute back to them and make sure my patronage went back to them.” 

Even after Stoodt passed away in 1989, Leedy continued to honor him by remaining a devoted customer to Stoodt’s and keeping the tradition of shopping there with his family alive. 

That’s why when Leedy and his family discovered Stoodt’s officially closed for business in January 2020, their hearts broke. 

Since the store closed, Leedy’s daily life changed. Rather than making an easy trip up to the market for small or big shopping trips, Leedy and his wife must now commute a long distance to the closest grocery store in the vicinity and only shop once a week. 

“It’s not like you can say, ‘I’m running in town for five minutes, I’ll be right back.’ It’s more of a planned trip when we have to go to the store,” Leedy said.  

Luckily, Leedy’s regular day-to-day schedule will be back faster than he knows it! 

Stoodt’s will return this summer under new management by Georjean Stoodt and Pat Hayes to fulfill the mission of providing wholesome and moderately priced fresh and packaged foods, beverages and essential household products to people in the Clear Fork community. 

Stoodt’s has been around for nearly 100 years, offering an easily accessible, affordable public service to the people of Clear Fork Valley. As one of the only independent grocery stores in the area, many people such as Leedy flocked to it, not only out of convenience but also due to the owners that have made them feel as though Stoodt’s is their second home. 

“I grew up in this community and there are wonderful people in the valley and they’ve just given me so much. So I feel a desire, if they want this to succeed, to help make that possible,” Georjean Stoodt said. 

With a long career in public service, Stoodt felt ready to keep her family's legacy going. 

”I think helping and contributing to the community and understanding, appreciating and valuing its preferences and needs are just really a key part of what’s important to me in my life,” Stoodt said. 

Along with giving customers a local in-store shopping experience, Stoodt’s expects to provide online ordering and ordering over the phone with the option of pick up and delivery. 

Being a long-time customer who can’t wait to continue supporting Stoodt’s, Leedy looks forward to the reopening and hopes the Stoodt’s family gets the credit they deserve. 

“It’s very commendable that they’re doing this for the community,” Leedy said. “I hope it will get off the ground for them and go because I know that they want to see that happen, and I think there’s a lot of people here in the community that would like to see that happen, as well.”

Hayes, who’s worked at Stoodt’s Market for 41 years can’t wait to get the store back open and take on his new position as manager. The second he heard about Stoodt’s closing, his mind went to the older community members and their future struggle of going out of their way to shop at the closest grocery store out of town. 

“The younger folks, of course they can adjust; they can hop in a car and drive. But the elder ones are the ones I was a little more concerned about,” Hayes said.  

Since the village learned of the store’s reopening, Hayes said he’s been approached by many people, all just as excited to continue shopping locally.

“It’s awesome,” Hayes said. “Anywhere I go, I’m getting a good feel that people want the store back and they keep saying, ‘Come on, Pat, let’s get it back!’ and ‘We’ll still support you!’ And it’s just a great feeling. I feel just as good as well to be able to do it for them.” 

Clear Fork villagers are encouraged to take the Stoodt’s Grocery Store Survey. The survey will allow customers to give feedback so that Stoodt and Hayes can benefit from what their interests, priorities and investments would be. It will also help them shape what future developments for the store will look like. 

Bernard Hollar, former owner of Stoodt’s Market from 1989 to 2016, was happy to hear the store would return. After working there a grand total of 55 years, he saw up close how of great value the market is to the Clear Fork community and feels confident in their support. 

“I really think the people of Clear Fork Valley will step up and shop local and get it going. Because you can’t go any place without seeing someone you know that wants that store back open,” Hollar said. 

As a firm supporter of local grocery stores and only shopping locally, Hollar will help out with the store on occasions. As a team, Stoodt, Hollar and Hayes will keep their community fed for many more years to come.

“The town really needs the store and the store’s the heart of the community,” Hollar said.  

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