MOUNT AIRY - The year that James W. Linton Jr. was born was the year that his parents and aunt and uncle opened up the Groceteria on North Main Street, where the Mount Airy Locker Co. now sits.
That was 1947, and at the time, the store was one of several small family-run groceries in the town.
"There were four or five mom-and-pop-type stores downtown," Linton recalled. "They closed down from no one being able to take them over in the family and carry on."
Such was not the case with the Groceteria. When the original founders, James and Virginia Linton Sr. and Bill and Mary Rimbey, decided to retire, their sons bought the store and took over.
Today, Foodrite Groceteria Inc. is a successful and independent full-service grocery store with Linton as president in partnership with two cousins.
"Virgil Porter, who's married to my first cousin, is vice president and treasurer and in charge of the meat and perishable foods departments," he said.
"I do the administrative part, and Bobby Rimbey is secretary and maintenance, the overall caretaker of the premises."
The three have been running the store since 1973 and have been so successful that in 1988 they expanded into a mini-shopping center with a Rite-Aid Pharmacy and Jamesway Department Store, along with several other small businesses.
On Main Street just off Ridgeville Boulevard, the Foodrite store alone covers 33,000 square feet, employs 85 people and includes a busy restaurant-carryout.
The store is holding its own in a small town with two chain grocery stores, although Linton admitted business dropped slightly when the Weis store opened in the Twin Arch Shopping Center.
"That was expected -- everybody goes to a new store," he said. "Since then business has been growing steadily."
Linton attributes that growth to the local ownership that is able to give the store and its customers personal service by being on the premises as well as its longtime employees.
The three owners also take care to keep the store clean and in good working order, from the back stock rooms to the front registers.
"Bobby is very handy and knowledgeable about keeping things working," Linton said. "We have a paper for employees to submit to the front office if something needs fixing and Bobby will do it within a week."
Management also seems to care about the employees.
On a recent tour through the store, Linton stopped to ask the deli manager if she heard the noise her car was making.
She had and assured him it was only a cosmetic problem.
"Just so it's safe," he said, relieved.
Of course, the customers are the store's bread and butter, so to speak.
Shoppers are given competitive prices, double coupons up to 99 cents, and their groceries are taken to their car and loaded up by baggers.
And every Saturday evening, Foodrite has a Win What You Spend drawing.
The customer whose name is drawn gets free groceries for whatever amount she or he spent at Foodrite during the previous week.
The store also is very community-oriented. Foodrite has one employee whose main job is to handle special charge accounts for civic and social organizations that order large quantities of supplies for fund-raisers and other activities.
"Groups like that don't have the money up front," Linton noted.
Foodrite also joined the town in its fund-raising efforts for the Susan Hornick Fund by donating 1 percent of all receipts between Oct. 22 and Nov.
"When you're born and raised here and grow with the community. . . . We have a lot of heart here," Linton said.
Foodrite's customers seem to know the store cares by the way they're treated. Many shoppers even come from Damascus, Montgomery County, for the extra coupon savings and courteous service.
"It's a nice, clean store, and they have a good selection," said Barbara Hammond of Damascus.
"I come here mainly because I can find what I need and you don't have time to shop two or three stores," Barbara Anderson of Mount Airy noted.
"You get friendly service and the prices are really good -- they are quite reasonable."