Business

Monday, Jan 14 2013 08:08 AM

Customers say goodbye to Green Frog Market

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Green Frog Market president Scott Hair was on hand to chat with loyal customers on the final day of the business.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Kathleen Ashland, center, is checked out one final time by Green Frog Market checker Brian Poole on the final day of business of the iconic market. Ashland has been a customer at the market for 37 years.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Most of the shelves at the Green Frog Market were close to empty (if not totally empty) on the final day of business.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

Gladys Williams has shopped at the Green Frog Market for a very long time.

The 101-year-old said she's been a regular since 1952, and three of her boys had held jobs there. On Sunday, she walked through the iconic market one last time and picked up a final few highly discounted items before the business closed its doors for good that evening.

"It's real sad news," Williams said of the demise of her favorite market.

Green Frog President Scott Hair sold the property about 21/2 months ago for $1.6 million. The national chain Dollar General will be moving into the market's location on Bernard Street and Alta Vista Drive in east Bakersfield.

Hair closed the company's larger Columbus Street store in 2011. Dollar General is expected to open in the Bernard Street location around August 2013.

Hair said it's been a little overwhelming to see so many people come through the store this past week and express how much they've loved shopping there. Banners near the store's entrance had been signed by dozens of customers as a sign of their appreciation.

In thinking about his favorite memories of the market, Hair said all of them have something to do with the people who have gone through its doors, whether his grandfather, his wife or longtime customers.

"It's all about the people," he said.

Mary Helen Barro walked up to Hair and gave him a hug before leaving with her purchases. She was teary-eyed.

"I cried," she said of her reaction to hearing last month that the store was closing. "I'm still crying!"

Barro said the quality of the items and the "homeyness" of the store are what kept her coming back over the decades. She said she's a strong supporter of local, small businesses.

Barro's not sure where's she'll shop now.

"All the local groceries are gone," she said.

Ron and Andrea Gifford also stopped by the store one last time. The couple lives in Ventura, but recently came back to Bakersfield to get things in order following the death of Ron's mother, Lois Gifford, who was a longtime Green Frog shopper.

Ron said his mother lived nearby and would walk to the store, even after she suffered a stroke. She would rest on the seat of her walker if she got tired, he said.

"They really cater to the customers," Ron Gifford said.

Andrea Gifford said she'd shop at Green Frog whenever they needed Harris Ranch Beef or items that other groceries didn't have. She enjoyed the selection.

As for the beloved frog sign outside the market, Hair said he anticipates it will be placed in a museum, and he has already been contacted regarding where it will go. He declined to say who had contacted him.

"It's a significant piece of artwork as well as our trademark," he said.

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