YOUR HOMETOWN — Linville: Mac’s Last Stand?
Linville Store Owner Says This Summer May Be Shop’s Last
“I used to own a 7-Eleven,” McDonaldson said. “I figured, you know, everybody said something about ‘that little store … needs opened back up.’ I thought I’d give it a whirl.”
But business at the creaky, wood-shingled store on Kratzer Road has slowed down over the past few years. This summer, in fact, may be its last.
“I can’t beat another winter wondering how I’m going to get the bills paid all the time,” McDonaldson said.
So Linville’s only store will probably follow the procession of small country stores across Virginia and the nation that have gone out of business over the years, victims of chain stores with more leverage and the ups and downs of a fickle economy.
“It ain’t just Linville, it’s all of them,” McDonaldson said. “I talk to other people who own [small] stores … every one of them is struggling.”
But he stressed the importance of having a market close by in an especially rural area.
The number of people stranded and unable to drive to work or Walmart after the late-winter snows this year is his evidence.
He said he got complaints about people not being able to get the necessities after the snow had accumulated because Mac’s was closed. But given the slide in business, he didn’t want to risk the snowy roads himself when it might not be worth the trouble.
“They want us to be there when they want us there,” McDonaldson said. But “it takes customers to keep the doors open.”
And although Mac’s has its share of regular customers, a group including some older men who will visit over a cup of coffee, McDonaldson said he needs a stronger base.
If people want Mac’s open when it snows or at other times when it might not be feasible to get to Harrisonburg, they should visit the store more often, McDonaldson said.
Part of the problem, he said, is the prevalence of rental properties in the area. Many customers discover the store, become regular customers for a few months, but then end up moving away.
The inconsistent customer base has caused Mac’s to close earlier over the years.
“I used to stay open until 10; [that] was a waste, cut it back to 9; that was a waste, cut it back to 8; that’s a waste,” McDonaldson said.
Mac’s is now open from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.
And the store didn’t just have to skimp on hours.
The store used to offer a full menu of home-cooked meals, including lasagna, hamburgers, tenderloin, soup and beans, McDonaldson said, but that, too, has dwindled.
“When the economy went down … that kind of put my kitchen into a thing where I was throwing away more food than I was selling,” McDonaldson said.
Now, the only fresh food Mac’s sells are cold cut sandwiches, and at this point, he’s unlikely to resurrect his menu.
“These little ma and pa stores will be gone before it’s over with,” McDonaldson said. “I think one day everyone is going to wish the little stores didn’t go out of business.”
Contact Alex Rohr at 574-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org