The Bridge Store, a longtime neighborhood market in Madera, is closing after 89 years.
Founded by Tom and Kameyo Nishimoto, the popular market started out as a one-room grocery store at the corner of D and South streets and grew into a bustling market with as many as 70 employees.
Centered in a Hispanic neighborhood, the store was beloved by its customers who made it one of the top sellers of Mexican food products in the region. But a slow and steady decline in its customer base sealed the store’s fate.
“It was getting harder and harder to compete with the other, larger grocery stores when you had fewer and fewer customers,” said Wally Nishimoto, the grandson of the store’s founders and current store manager. “So we made the decision to close.”
Saturday was expected to be the store’s last day.
Nishimoto said that many of the store’s customers are farmworkers who have moved out of the area because of a lack of work. Mechanization has whittled away the need for hand labor while the drought has eliminated thousands of acres of farmland.
Nishimoto said it was a tough decision to close the store, but a necessary one.
“When you are having to put money in to cover your losses, then you know its time,” Nishimoto said. “It’s been hard on everyone, including me. I have grown up in this store and so have some of our employees.”
Nishimoto said one of the store’s managers has been an employee for 48 years.
It remains to be seen what will happen to the Bridge Store building. The family owns the property and may lease it.
“We have had a few different companies make offers on the store, but nothing has been finalized,” Nishimoto said.