By ROSS BROWN
Rantoul Press correspondent
FISHER — For the first time in Fisher’s history, residents now have to drive out of town to buy groceries.
After a month-long sale for customers, Ingold’s Grocery closed on Friday after 92 years in business.
With the store’s closing, Fisher joins Catlin, Farmer City and Oakwood among central Illinois communities that have lost their local grocery stores in recent years.
Originally opened in 1926, Ingold’s Grocery was unique among other stores of its type in that it was owned by members of the same family during its entire history. Brothers-in-law Harve Ingold and Jesse Heiser ran the store until the mid-80s, joined later by Harve Ingold’s son Dale. Since 2001 it had been jointly owned by Dale’s children and their spouses, Steve and Belinda Ingold and Diana and David Wilkinson.
With Steve and Belinda Ingold approaching retirement, they decided to put the store up for sale in January via a broker.
"The grocery business is seven days a week, nights and holidays," Steve Ingold said at the time, "so we’re getting a little older and getting a little burnt-out. We’d like to turn it over to someone younger who has a bit more energy that can make a decent living, work hard and be their own boss."
But when no prospective buyers could be found after the first few months on the market, the family decided to close the store for good.
After a month-long inventory sale with reduced prices, Friday marked the last day for a store where many generations came to purchase groceries.
In a Facebook post on Friday, 17-year employee Juli Krantz reflected on watching customers grow and mature through the years.
"One of the best parts has been watching the kids grow up from just bumps in their young moms’ tummies, to that pride of independence being allowed to ride a bike up by themselves to get a snack, to driving the car up to get something for the family’s supper," she wrote. "And where else could I have worked and been guaranteed a smile and a kind word?"
Krantz also said she was able to meet many people by working at Ingold’s that she otherwise wouldn’t.
"I had been a virtual stranger in town until I started working there," she said. "Being a cashier there is much like being a bartender. I have shared in the joys and sorrows of many."
"When my husband suddenly passed away in 2003, the whole community wrapped its arms around me. For that, I am eternally grateful."
Like many small community businesses, Ingold’s Grocery once was the primary grocery store for most Fisher residents. Nowadays, many people in the community buy their groceries at larger stores in Champaign, which eroded the store’s customer base.
Still, for many residents, Ingold’s was just what the town of 1,900 people needed. If they needed an ingredient for a meal, they could drive just a few blocks instead of 10 miles. And for older customers who might find it hard to navigate through a large supermarket, the store’s small layout was the most convenient.
Fisher still has two businesses — Dollar General and Casey’s General Store — where some food items can be purchased, but residents will have to drive to Champaign, Gibson City, Mahomet or Rantoul to purchase fresh meat and produce.
The building at the corner of Front and Third streets in downtown Fisher is still for sale and could be reopened if a buyer wishes to do so.
Belinda Ingold thanked the family’s customers for their business in a Facebook post.
"Ingold’s Grocery has made me realize what wonderful beautiful people there are in this world, and for that I am forever grateful."