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Emigration Market closes its doors for the final time

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Food Bank will soon be getting a large donation, thousands of dollars in food, but it's bittersweet because it comes from the closing of a locally-owned, mom-and-pop grocery store.

If you live, or grew up, or visited the east side of Salt Lake, it's likely you came across Emigration Market at some point. The landmark has been was in operation for nearly 70 years. Now though, the economy is finally taking it down.

From the announcement that Emigration Market would close to the actual closing was less than two weeks.

Owner J.T. Martin said, "We've enjoyed it, and we've loved our employees."

Now the hustle and bustle of the east-side market is reduced to bare shelves and a long aisle of empty freezers. The owners say there was no other choice but to close and let 50 employees go.

"The losses became too great, and we couldn't do it anymore," Martin said.

He and his wife Kimberly bought the market 11 years ago, but it's been in business since 1942. It picked up new customers over the years and hung onto the loyal.

Paul Corbett, a customer since 1947, said, "I've had great benefit over the years -- a nice store, good location, people who really treat you nice."

And while the number of customers remained constant in recent years, their purchases did not -- dropping by about half. Martin attributes that to an increase of shoppers at big box and chain stores.

He said, "We don't blame anyone, that's just the way it is. People are looking to find the best value, or perceived value, and convenience and more variety, and it was hard for us to provide that any longer."

When the closed signs finally went up, the Martins found themselves with more than $10,000 in leftovers of baby food, canned goods, even household items. They're donating it all to food banks.

"This is our last way to say thanks, and it makes us feel good to make a significant contribution to our food pantries," Martin said.

There's no word yet on what will happen to the building and land. Martin says he'd like to see it open again as a market and that a small operation or specialty store might have more luck.


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