GREENWOOD, Ind. -- It appears to be the end of an era - more family grocery stores closing up shop after being edged out by the big box stories with the competitive prices. The latest mom and pop shop to call it quits after decades in business is the beloved Hampton's Market serving the Center Grove community.
Hampton's Market started dishing up meats and produce to customers in Greenwood back in 1974. Families stopped by the little shop across the street from its current location to browse the meat counter and chat with the father-son owners, who became like family.
Hampton's Market eventually relocated after a tornado moved through the community in the late 1990s and destroyed the building. After a brief stay at Boggstown Locker, Hampton's Market reopened on Smith Valley Road in the location on the north end of the street, east of Morgantown Road where it sits today.
Goebel "Pop" Hampton and his son, Keith Hampton, owned the grocery store and served customers with smiles for many decades. According to Goebel's obituary in 2006, he was a veteran who served as a cook in World War II in General Patton's army. As a store owner, anyone who visited the shop came to know Pop and his tasty vegetable soup that he proudly made with his sweetheart wife of 60 years.
Just last summer, Keith Hampton also passed away, leaving his wife Sue to run the store. Sue continued on the tradition of serving customers like family, with the hopes of eventually retiring and passing on the business.
Unfortunately with the community's growth and big box stores like Kroger, Meijer, Walmart, Target and more within minutes of Hampton's -- the store continues to lose the ability to compete. After searching unsuccessfully for a buyer this past year, she has come to the difficult decision to close the store this July.
Shannon Hoover is a manager of Hampton's Market and has worked at the store for more than 20 years. She says it's really sad to see this family establishment leave the community it has been a big part of for so many years.
"We know everybody. We know them by name," Hoover said. "They reached out in the flood, and they come to us if they have a family member passes away. It's really sad because they've known us forever and it's just one of those places you walk in where people know who you are."
Over the years, Hampton's has been a great source of specialty items for families, especially with their meat selections, she said. But they are losing business -- unable to compete with bigger stores on prices for other groceries.
"We can't buy in bulk to set the lower prices," says Hoover. "People don't come here anymore with a grocery cart to browse the aisles."
The shop hinted earlier this year that it may close down if the owner is unable to find a buyer. Lifelong, loyal customers took to social media and Nextdoor sites posting to support this local establishment.
"The whole community wanted us to stay open," says Hoover. "[Sue] thought she had a buyer but it just didn't work out."
Hampton's took to Facebook on June 5, announcing that the store would officially close their doors for the final time on July 8, with the meat counter staying open the longest. As of Thursday morning, the post has generated more than 700 reactions, more than 900 shares, and hundreds of comments.
Facebook user Hope Purdue wrote, "I’ve been going here since I was a toddler and I’m 47. Admittedly, not for whole shopping trips - but definitely for the hot and cold deli, your exceptional meats, and quick stops for necessities. You will be missed so very much."
Kathy Wilman remembered when Hampton's was open for her family in a time of need, writing, "Thank goodness you were open the night of the Blizzard of ‘78 and I was able to get enough food to get us through the first few days of being snowed inside! Bless you all."
Zach Edwards reflected on the past owners of the shop, writing, "Keith was a good family friend and he always did his best to give local kids a place to work after school. Hampton's market has always been an important part of the local community. I'm sad to see it go."
Many of people commenting on the post reflected on their favorite dishes from the grocery store, like Pop's ham salad, their famous fried chicken strips shared at family picnics and graduation parties across the community, and their mac and cheese.
"My family has been regular shoppers at Hampton’s all my life. I’ve grown up shopping there," writes Keleigh King. "Every year we’d order hams for all my dad’s employees for Christmas. The people who worked at Hampton’s were always so nice and helpful."
As for the workers today, they have to find new jobs. Hoover tells me she doesn't really know what is next for her but she is already looking for the next stage in her career.
"It is meant to be and I have faith. I know it is a new chapter and I'm going to keep going," Hoover said.
Hoover said Sue wants the community to know how thankful the Hampton's are for the community's support all these years.
"Keith and Goebel worked hard to make this place something the community can be proud of," says Hoover. "It's going to be a sad day. This is our family and this is our community."