Ronnie's Midway Market, one of the longest running family-owned grocery stores in Fresno, is closing its doors after 60 years.
Steve Asadoor, who runs the store with his brother Jon, said the increased competition from big-box retailers and discount stores was too much to bear.
"We hung in there for a long time," said Steve Asadoor, 53. "But we just couldn't continue to lose money."
The store that sits on the eastern edge of the Pinedale community will shut its doors for good Thursday. At one time, the neighborhood store at 7091 N. Blackstone Ave. employed 15 people.
On Wednesday, the only employees left in the near-empty store were the Asadoor brothers and 19-year employee Maria Hernandez, known fondly as Doña Mari by the store's Spanish-speaking customers.
Hernandez, a former farmworker who grew up in the neighborhood, is thankful the Asadoor brothers gave her the opportunity to leave the fields and work as one of the store's cashiers. It's a job she's relished.
"I have cried a lot over this," Hernandez said. "This place has been like a family to me and I am just glad to have been a part of it."
Founded in 1953, the market was started by the Asadoors' father, Ronnie. The elder Asadoor launched the store at the same location of his parents' former restaurant, the Midway Cafe.
From the beginning, the Asadoor family's business philosophy centered on providing fair prices, quality products and friendly service. For years, they had longtime employee Hector Montijo hand-paint signs on butcher paper advertising the store's weekly specials.
For the Asadoors, it seemed like no customer request was ever turned away.
Frances Delgado, a former Pinedale resident, said when her aging father could no longer walk very well, Jon would come to their car, find out what groceries he needed and deliver them to their home. Steve would also stock her mother's favorite sherry, even though few, if any, other customers bought it.
"No one does that kind of thing anymore," Delgado said. "We are really going to miss this place and the people."
Delgado was among dozens of former and current Ronnie's market shoppers who stopped by the store to say good-bye. Many took photos of the humble store, shook hands with employees and even shed a few tears.
Barbara Helm-Mendez of Selma drove into town to shop at Ronnie's one last time. The former Fresno resident fondly remembers stopping at the store on her family's trips to Millerton Lake. They would load up on supplies for a day of boating.
"I have always been a supporter of local business," Helm-Mendez said. "But for some local businesses, that is getting tougher with all this competition. The sad part is that once these mom-and-pop businesses go away, they don't come back."
The Asadoors knew they were up against some tough competition. For years, they were one of the few grocery stores in the area. People would come from throughout the city for their selection of Harris Ranch beef and their prized chorizo.
But over time Blackstone Avenue, north of Herndon, grew from a quiet road to a bustling six-lane thoroughfare. As Fresno's population pushed north, major retailers like Walmart, Costco, Sam's Club and Target soon followed.
"We have created a lot of friends in this community," said Steve Asadoor. "But the fact is, we can't compete on price with some of these stores. Our customers can easily go into one of those big stores, grab an item and get it cheaper."
The Asadoors know shutting the store's doors for the final time won't be easy. They also are not sure what will happen to the property that they leased. It's doubtful it will be another grocery store, they say.
"In a way, it is a sense of relief because we had such a hard time coming to a decision about this," said 51-year-old Jon Asadoor, who is planning to move to the Central Coast.
Steve Asadoor wants to take some much needed time off. He hasn't had a real vacation in three years. He may visit his grandkids, then start looking for a new job.
"It is going to be awfully hard to drive by this place after this is over," Steve Asadoor said. "This is all I have done my entire life."
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