Woodbine co-op to close Friday Prices, declining number of area farmers blamed

February 25, 1997|By Donna R. Engle and Jennifer Vick

Members of the Southern States Cooperative in Woodbine voted overwhelmingly yesterday to close the 46-year-old store and merge with the Mount Airy operation.

Co-op members voted 123-10 in favor of a local board recommendation to close the unprofitable Woodbine store Friday.

The decision to close the Carroll County store, which has not made a profit since 1988, comes two months after the Westminster Southern States Cooperative ended its operations after years of losses and mounting debt.

Southern States has consolidated stores in recent months in North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, Delaware and Maryland to adjust to changes in demand for agricultural and suburban markets.

Farmers become cooperative members by committing to a certain amount of business with Southern States each year. In profitable years, members receive dividend checks and co-op stock.

Robert Shoemaker, a Woodbine native who helped form the Woodbine co-op and served on its first board of directors, said closing the store was a wise business decision.

"The biggest reason is farmers -- we don't have them anymore," he said. "For the good of everyone, changes have to be made."

Southern States officials have said the Woodbine-Mount Airy consolidation would provide better service for customers and stockholders.

The Woodbine co-op was hampered by a deteriorating building, small showroom and limited parking. Mount Airy's Southern States home and gardening store has 12,500 square feet of space, compared to 2,500 square feet at Woodbine.

Woodbine's three full-time employees will retain their jobs under the consolidation.

Southern States officials promised farmers more merchandise and longer store hours at the combined Mount Airy co-op.

"We're not turning into a city store," District Manager Jim McCarron told members. "We're still going to offer a wide range of farm items."

Several co-op members complained yesterday that Woodbine's prices no longer were competitive and blamed a declining number of farmers for loss of business.

Pub Date: 2/25/97

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