The IGA Foodliner — in the East Lake Shopping Center at 3301 E. Rancier Ave. — announced last week that it will be closed down by the end of August, and both the owner of the grocery and local residents are upset for what this could mean for northeast Killeen.
“This is not something we wanted to do in any way,” owner John Benson said Wednesday. “This area is already turning into a food desert, and you have a lot of people in this area that are going to be hurt by this.”
The grocery store served northeast Killeen for more than 40 years, originally opening in the 1970s as a Piggly Wiggly.
Once IGA closes, shoppers in northeast Killeen looking for fresh produce and meat will have their options severely limited. The only other sizeable grocery stores north of Interstate 14 in Killeen are the H-E-B, 809 N. Gray St., Delicias Meat Market, 1001 E. Veterans Memorial Blvd. and O-Mart, 714 S. Fort Hood St. However, IGA is the only one in northeast Killeen.
Benson said he has worked at the grocery store for decades, starting in the meat market in the mid-1970s when the store was still a Piggly Wiggly. After the store transitioned into the IGA Foodliner in the mid-1980s, Benson became a co-owner alongside Gary Dover and Ronny Jaro. Benson said the store has been struggling for some time while he has been trying to find ways to stay open to serve the residents of northeast Killeen.
“Honestly, I probably should have closed a year ago, because it’s almost impossible to turn a profit,” Benson said. “We have a lot of great customers here, just not enough to turn a profit. We hate the fact that we are leaving them.”
Many residents are also sad to see the grocery store go, and they are already voicing concerns online and to members of the Killeen City Council about the lack of shopping options in northeast Killeen.
“Sad to see it go,” Killeen resident Arthur Fields said on Facebook. “Northeast Killeen is a food desert! It’s a shame that folks are not making it easy for H-E-B or Walmart grocers to move in. The city should bend over backwards to fix this situation. Yes, the south side of the city is growing, but don’t forget about the folks who have been here for decades on the Northside.”
Councilwoman Shirley Fleming represents the district IGA is located in, and she said she has already received several complaints from her constituents.
“The residents are furious, and I am very upset myself,” Fleming said. “They are all asking, ‘Where are we going to shop?’ This is going to be a great difficulty for them. There is going to be a great impact on our citizens there.”
Fleming said she plans to talk about the closure at her monthly District 1 meeting Monday and possible ideas to bring new shopping options to northeast Killeen.
The meeting starts at 11 a.m. at Bloom Coffee Roasters, 2300 E. Rancier Ave., Suite 104. It is open to the public.