Local grocery store closing
By Kevin Dye
The dream of having a local grocery store in the Village of West Jefferson has turned into a nightmare as West Jeff Finer Food owners have decided they no longer have any recourse but to liquidate their stock and close their doors.
West Jeff Finer Food just opened its doors this past March, filling a more than three-year void of not having a local grocery in the village. However, a construction company accident in May, tied to the Downtown Enhancement Project, caused the power to be cut to the village for more than 12 hours. Store owners said that resulted in $300,000 in losses for the store as dairy, produce and frozen food items were ruined by the outage.
The losses have turned into a protracted legal battle between West Jeff Finer Food owner Nedal Aburokbeh, the company that allegedly caused the power outage, and its insurance company that has refused to pay for the accident. It has left Aburokbeh with no options until the case is settled, he said.
“This is very hard for us to do, but we have no other choice,” Aburokbeh said. “We have started liquidating our stock this morning and will sell everything in the store and then close our doors. This is very sad.”
Aburokbeh and his attorney filed a suit in court on Friday to try to recoup his damages, but the legal process will not be a quick one. While facing this scenario last week, Aburokbeh said that time was not on his side.
“It is not good,” Aburokbeh said. “We hired a new attorney, but if it takes a lot longer it won’t be good. We are in trouble, seriously. If nothing comes through by Monday, we will have to think about liquidating stock. We are just losing money every day.”
West Jeff Finer Food operates the way many grocery stores operate by obtaining their grocery products from vendors on credit and they repay as the goods are sold. The cycle of credit/repayment is constantly turning over, but there is no way a small, fledging grocery store can absorb $300,000 of loss for the mishap of others. As the store starts the liquidation process, Aburokbeh hopes that he will eventually be able to open his doors again to serve West Jefferson once the legal issues are settled.
“We will liquidate all of our stock in the store and then we will close and wait,” Aburokbeh said. “We will hold onto the building lease and the equipment and see if there is a legal solution. This is very hard on all of us.”
The store’s closing not only affects Aburokbeh, but the many residents in the village employed there. West Jeff Finer Food employed close to 30 individuals at its peak, but over 20 of those had to be laid off during the legal battle this summer. The rest of the staff will be unemployed once the liquidation is completed.