Twenty-eight pumpkin chiffon pies.

They sat locked in plastic clamshells, each marked $7.49. But at 75% off the price to last-day shoppers was $1.87.

The same for the 25 regular pumpkin pies lined up right below in a cold storage display at Lucky’s Market.

The forlorn pies were just part of the scene Friday as Jackson’s smallest, newest and least successful grocery store neared the last time its automatic doors would automatically whoosh open to welcome a shopper.

“It’s our last day,” said Charlie Baumgartner, the store’s front-end manager for its final three months. “It’s kind of sad.”

And it wasn’t just Jackson’s Lucky’s: The chain, started in 2002 in Boulder, Colorado, and rapidly expanding after 2012, declared bankruptcy in January. Fast growth and debt dragged the chain down, financial reporters said. Lucky’s had grown to 39 stores by 2019 after grocery giant Kroger’s bought a big share in 2016. When Kroger’s announced in January that it it would close 32 stores and sell the rest, it was owed a reported $301 million, and Lucky’s had lost $100 million in its most recent fiscal year and seen a drop of more than 10% in sales at existing stores.

Lucky’s opened in Jackson in March 2015, drawing a big opening day crowd and giving away $20,000 to local good causes. Positioning itself against the “Whole Paycheck” reputation of holistic food fad giant Whole Foods, Lucky’s billed itself as “organic for the 99%.”

In Jackson it was also seen as smaller, quieter, a step slower than the other groceries in town, even a bit easier on the eyes, not quite so fluorescently blinding as its bigger competitors, Albertsons, Smith’s, Whole Grocer.

But this past Friday the place was mostly emptied of its contents, selling what was left at 25 cents on the dollar, and a liquidator was taking low offers on the fixtures. The 15,000-square-foot place had the feel of the halftime locker room of a football team ending a long, sad 3-13 season.

It died slow.

“In the last couple of months it’s really gone downhill,” said Jay Nel-McIntosh, a regular who remembered happier days and stopped in to the store shortly before its closing. “They used to have great deals on organic produce.”

But for others on Friday — and the recent weeks of growing discounts in preparation for the closing — the last day was a good day to load up.

With a 30-pound deli scale under his arm and looking for a liquidator to set a price, Matt Hazard said, “You never know what you’re going to find.

“I got all their sausage casings the other day, and also a bunch of sausage seasonings,” Hazard said. “And also a couple of cutting boards.”

A woman with a wobbly-wheeled cart full of random stuff acknowledged she would miss Lucky’s, but not enough to give her name: “I’m supposed to be at work,” she said as she squeaked away.

The last day was a monument to things that just don’t sell.

There were three big jars, 8 1/2 pounds each, stuffed with Zorazalena olives, originally $42.79.

There were still-flat cardboard boxes wrapped in plastic. Fourteen-ounce bottles of Ambrosia Citrus Brine. Twenty-four plastic ice scraper-snow brushes. Generic bottled water. In the health care section a selection of miracle cures with names like GeniusJuice, Male Mojo, VeggieGest and Kick-Ass Allergy.

There were bulk boxes marked Republic of Tea that contained 50 tea bags each of unfavorite flavors like Watermelon Mint, Spring Cherry and Mango Ceylon. Big piles of stainless steel kitchen gear. Unmarked plastic bags of corn flakes and stuffing looking for a turkey. A surprising amount of Mountain Dew, apparently less in demand in a foodie town like Jackson than in, say, Arkansas. A steel warehouse cart, marked $80, loaded with 22 of the cheapest-looking-ever Styrofoam coolers, your pick for $6.49 each before discount.

For those in the business there was a giant produce section cooler marked $10,421 and one of those heated display cases that entice you with ready-to-eat whole chickens, only this time no chickens, just the case, for $4,770.

Lucky’s didn’t close without people regretting its departure.

“I’m very sad to see the store go,” said regular Nancy Carson, who as she was checking out spied the impulse-buy display of knitted finger puppets. “I hope something equally wonderful moves in.”

She took 15 of the finger puppets at a prediscount price of $3.99 each.

You never know, she said. Grandchildren.

And as the conveyor belt moved the last of Carson’s purchases within reach of the clerk, here came a pumpkin chiffon pie.

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Contact Mark Huffman at 732-5907 or mark@jhnewsandguide.com.

Contact Mark Huffman at 732-5907 or mark@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mark Huffman edits copy and occasionally writes some, too. He's been a journalist since newspapers had typewriters and darkrooms.

(1) comment

Charlie Mullen

Sounds like Matt is getting ready to make a lot of sausage

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