Farm supply retailer Southern States Cooperative Inc. is closing its store in eastern Henrico County in January after serving the farming community there since 1975.
Dozens of area farmers, livestock owners, horse owners and gardeners aren’t happy with the decision to close the location at 3119 Williamsburg Road.
“We need the store. We depend on it,” said Stewart Goodwin, who has bought her seed and feed there since 1979.
She started an online petition asking the Henrico-based cooperative to keep the store open. More than 1,000 people had signed the petition as of late Monday afternoon.
Southern States is closing the location because the store wasn’t consistently profitable, spokeswoman Jennifer Gwyn said.
“With the lease ending [at the end of January], it was an opportunity to evaluate the business,” Gwyn said. “The lack of profitability required to sustain that location is the cause for the closing.”
The store is set to close around Jan. 20, she said. Eight full-time employees who work there will be given the opportunity to relocate to other area stores. Southern States has about 1,200 retail outlets in 23 states.
Southern States said it will continue to meet the needs of customers at its stores in King William County, on West Broad Street in western Henrico, and on Alverser Drive in Chesterfield County. Customers who have feed and farm supplies delivered to them will continue to be served through the company’s King William and West Broad locations.
But Goodwin and others say Southern States’ other locations in the Richmond area are too far away from the Williamsburg Road store. The King William location off U.S. 360 is about 25 miles away, and the store in western Henrico is about 15 miles away.
“We depend on that store for our feed and our seed and our chemicals and for the knowledge of the employees and the friendliness of the employees,” Goodwin said. “There are large horse farms and cattle farms ... everyone who raises animals depends on Southern States by choice.”
Farmers and others could shop at Tractor Supply stores off U.S. 60 in New Kent County or on Mechanicsville Turnpike in Hanover County, she said. But they don’t want to.
“We know we can go to Tractor Supply, but Tractor Supply doesn’t hold a candle to Southern States in terms of knowledge and customer service,” said Goodwin, who lives near Bottoms Bridge and is closer to the Tractor Supply store.
The decision to close the store “goes against the grain” of Southern States’ core business of serving farmers, Goodwin and other customers said.
Nancy Gallmeyer, whose family owns Gallmeyer Farms in Varina, said her family relies on the Southern States store on Williamsburg Road for fertilizer, seed and feed.
“We get almost everything there,” Gallmeyer said.
Gallmeyer Farms operates The Pumpkin Patch and The Veggie Stand at Millers Lane and Gay Avenue and The Berry Patch on Darbytown Court.
“That store has been a big part of the farming community for a lot of us,” she said. “It is like the old community store — they know you and they know what’s going on.”
She’s not sure what her family will do when the Southern States store closes.
“To run out to King Williams is a big distance for us,” she said.
Goodwin heard about the store closing last week while shopping there.
“It bothered me so much that I just felt like I had to do something,” she said.
She started the petition at Change.org, which went online Saturday morning. She hopes Southern States will change its mind about closing the store or at least find another location in eastern Henrico.
Southern States is aware of the Change.org petition, Gwyn said, and customer concerns and comments have been shared with company management.