A staple in the Miltona community - Miltona Grocery - will be shutting its doors next month and although community members are sad, they are understanding.

The store, owned and operated by Bob Guetter for the past 25 years, will be closing Saturday, Dec. 9.

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"I can see his point," said regular customer Reiny Luedeke. "But it's a bad deal for the town."

You will find Luedeke at Miltona Grocery often as he is a member of one of two coffee clubs that meet at the store six days a week.

"It will hurt the town," said Luedeke. "It is hard to know what is going to happen with other businesses in this town, but at least we have a good school."

The decision to close the store didn't come lightly for Guetter as he has enjoyed the past 25 years.

"It was a very difficult decision to close a small town grocery store as I know every community needs one," he said, adding that he has had the store on the market for more than year. "I have been thinking about closing it since May and finally made the decision in October. It was a long, thought-out decision."

Guetter said with big box stores, like Target, Walmart, Menards and Fleet Farm, offering groceries to their customers, the smaller, hometown grocery stores have taken a hit. He said he's seen other stores closing, too, because of it.

Evansville saw its grocery close earlier this year.

Guetter grew up working in convenience stores, as his parents owned one. After college, he worked for Tom Thumb convenience stores as a store manager and then area manager.

After visiting the Alexandria lakes area often because of family living here, Guetter decided to make the move to this area. He purchased Miltona Grocery in 1992.

He said it was a co-op for many years before it became privately owned in 1985. The previous owners held onto it until he purchased it in 1992. He officially opened the store as his own on Dec. 7 of that year.

The last 25 years have been good for Guetter, he said.

"I love the customers, my friends, and the time I've spent with them," said Guetter. "I've loved watching my kids grow up in the business, along with the kids of my friends. I've enjoyed it all and there wasn't a lot of challenges."

Guetter, along with his wife, Pauline, have two grown sons, Bob Jr. and Colin.

About the only challenge Guetter could come up with was keeping employees. Although he quickly added, "I've been fortunate to have some really good employees."

Guetter said the store will remain on the market and he hopes the right person will come along and purchase it. He is leaving it fully equipped in hopes that whoever buys it can re-open it as a grocery store.

"Closing the store is the tough part," he said. "But at some point, I needed to say this is the end."

Although Guetter doesn't have any definitive plans, he said he is ready for a new challenge and is open to whatever opportunities are out there.

He thanked the community and all his customers for being supportive throughout all these years and also for understanding his decision to close.

"Even though people are sad, I've had positive feedback," said Guetter. "People have said they don't blame me, but that they will miss it."

"It's a very sad thing for this town," said Janet Olstad, who drinks her coffee at the grocery store at least six mornings a week. "He has to do what he has to do. I understand, but it's still sad."

Olstad said she's been shopping there and having coffee there for probably 20-plus years.

The two six-day-a-week coffee clubs don't have to worry about where they are going to meet, however. Olstad said she already talked with the owner of the liquor store, next door to the grocery store, and he has agreed to let them hold their morning coffee clubs there.

"It's a social thing," she said. "We need that."