2018-04-19 / Local News

Deerings under contract to be sold

By Jen Murphy
of the Entrprise staff

If you ask Deering’s grocery store owner Sue Carpenter, she will tell you that the focus of the store that has been around for three-quarters of a century has always been the people of Empire.

So the decision to put the building and business on the market was difficult for Carpenter and her husband, Phil Deering.

“Those decisions were made over a period of years,” she said.

The property, which was listed at $375,000, is now under contract, although Realtor Laura Sielaff of Century 21 Sleeping Bear Realty said there were still many things needing to be done before closing.

“It’s barely under contract, and we have lots to work on,” she said.

Some of these “to do” items include the transfer of several licenses, including those for food, beer and wine, liquor and tobacco sales.

But if all goes as planned, Carpenter said those requirements should be completed by the end of May.

“We are under contract,” she said. “It has to close. Right now, we are meeting all of the requirements. There’s a lot of work to be completed before the sale is done.”

Sielaff said she could not identify the buyer without his permission. He had not returned her calls by press time.

One factor contributing to a decision to sell was the minimum orders required by suppliers. Carpenter wrote in a post on social media, “Phil and I have both tried very hard to keep up, but the support just hasn’t been there to allow us financially to stock the store. All suppliers have minimums and terms that means the bills need to be paid… Traverse has big beautiful stores and lots of selection, the little stores cannot keep up.

“We love Empire and always will, but the lack of year around residents will make any year around business challenging.”

Another factor was seasonal population fluctuation. “Year round there are about 350 or 360 people in Empire, and more than half of them leave. That brings it down to about 150 people and many are working in Traverse City,” Carpenter said.

“It’s difficult to be a grocery store in a small town,” she said.

Carpenter said she doesn’t know what plans the future owners have for the store.

“I hope whatever their vision is, that it’s successful. The last thing Empire needs is another empty storefront.”

What will Carpenter and Deering do to keep themselves busy after running a grocery store that’s been under family ownership for three generations? They may stay in the garden center business. “The garden center will probably continue independently,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter and Deering are now searching for a location in Empire.

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