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Evansville's only grocery closing this week

Ginny Nelson rings up customers during the busy final days before Nelson's Store, Evansville's only grocery, closes for good. (Alexis Habberstad | Echo Press) 1 / 2
Ginny Nelson and her husband Scott owned and operated Nelson’s Store together from 1987 until December of 2016 when Scott lost his battle with liver cancer. Ginny carried on the store from then on, and will continue to until it closes on August 31. (Alexis Habberstad | Echo Press) 2 / 2

The only grocery store in Evansville will bring its legacy — and its doors — to a close this week, leaving many residents to rethink their shopping routine.

Nelson's Store will have its last day of business on Thursday, Aug. 31, ending a 71-year run. For 62 of those years, the family owned business has been in its current home on a prominent corner of Evansville's downtown. Before Evansville, it operated in Melby for nine years.

Ginny Nelson and her husband, Scott, carried on the legacy of Nelson's Store after Scott's parents passed the baton in 1987. The two ran the business for 29 years together, until Scott lost his battle with liver cancer last December. Ginny explained that what came after her husband's death was always a part of their plan.

"As soon as we got his diagnosis, we put the store up for sale. Then he passed away December 3 and now here it is, almost a year later, and I have not had one offer. I've talked to a few people, but it never came down to one concrete offer," Nelson said. "So I decided I want to be able to go to my grandkids' games and do things when I want to. I decided I would close the store."

Nelson and her husband have three children, all of whom chose to pursue careers outside the family business.

In its years of operation, Nelson's Store wasn't just widely known for its small-town customer service, but also for its Minnesota delicacy — lutefisk.

"My folks used to buy it and freeze and eat it all summer long," said Evansville native Harlan Englund with a laugh. "I think they sold like 1,500 pounds over there every Christmas."

Englund is the long time owner of He, Me, & We Workshop in Evansville and grew up with Nelson's Store as a staple in his family.

"It really is going to be a loss," Englund said.

In Evansville, the small 6,500 square foot grocery store is currently the only store of its kind. For the community, this means a big adjustment in how far residents will have to travel to stock up.

"I live about two blocks away (from Nelson's). I grew up in a small town and didn't develop very good habits of shopping. Now I have to drive and stock up for a week, and that's really going to be hard for me," said Pat Nitz, a resident of Evansville and a regular of Nelson's. "I told my husband that we're going to have to actually keep a shopping notepad," she laughed. "It's just the convenience that's going to be missed."

Nitz explained that along with longtime residents, the seniors of Evansville will be affected most.

"I know a lot of elderly people here that would call in their orders and Nelson's would deliver them. That too will be a real loss," Nitz said. "It wasn't just about the grocery store, it was about the people there. The Nelson family really made it special."

Nelson said she still hopes someone from Evansville will eventually fill the role she is leaving behind.

"I kind of warned people all along that I wasn't going to do this forever. I was hoping someone would step up when they saw the store closing sign went in the window, but no one has talked to me about anything yet," she said.

Although Nelson has little time left at the store, she said the memories and friendships made in the community of Evansville will last a lifetime.

What would she say as a farewell to her customers?

"Certainly we've appreciated our faithful customers — they've gotten to be like family," she said, "and I will miss them."