End of an era: Neighborhood market unexpectedly closes

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

The cow on top of Greulich’s Market on Carman Road surveys an empty parking lot this week after the store suddenly closed. The store was in business for 61 years.
 

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Signs say it all: A handwritten sign announcing its closure and thanking customers for their loyalty is taped to the door at Greulich’s Market. Just inside the door, a sign advertises one of its sources of pride — its fresh, high quality meat.

GUILDERLAND — Greulich’s Market has closed its doors after 61 years of business.

It was the last of Guilderland’s mom-and-pop neighborhood stores and had a loyal following of customers, many of whom expressed surprise when they stopped in on Friday and found sale items with empty shelves.

“It was a shock,” said Betty Ahearn, who lives in the neighborhood. “I walked in and half the store was black.”

Ahearn, a school librarian who lives on Benjamin Street, is 62. For thirty years, she said, she has regularly walked from her home to Greulich’s on Carman Road, carrying her food home in a backpack. “It’s good exercise,” she said.

Of Greulich’s, she said, “It’s a neighborhood icon. It’s always been there. I can’t imagine life without it.”

The reason for Greulich’s closure appears to be financial. Guilderland’s receiver of taxes, Lynne Buchanan, told The Enterprise that the 2013 school tax portion of the property taxes on the store had gone unpaid, and was re-levied and rolled into its 2014 property taxes.

After March 31, an unpaid tax bill gets transferred to the county, and, said Buchanan, as of right now, the store’s owner, Bonnie Greulich, owes the county $15,384. Greulich could not be reached for comment.

The property, at 3403 Carman Road, according the town’s assessor, Karen VanWagenen, has an assessed valuation of $395,500, and that assessment has remained the same since at least 2005.

Amy VanDuser, a former employee of the store — she worked there in the 1990s — said she believed that, if more people had known the store was in trouble, they would have pulled together to save it.

“I would have lent a helping hand,” said VanDuser. “I just don’t think people knew what was happening, or else we would have helped to get things back on track.”

The original owners of the store, Edna and Arthur Greulich, hired VanDuser to work there when she was 15. She worked there for 10 years, all through high school and college.

“They were wonderful people,” said VanDuser. “They treated their employees so well.”

Many of those employees worked there for decades. Edward Lysiak, the butcher, for example, celebrated 50 years of employment at Greulich’s in 2011.

He told The Enterprise then that he was “rooted” at the store, and said Greulich’s still offered the highest standard in customer service, as well as the best quality fresh meat, baked goods, and farm-fresh produce.

Lysiak said he had developed friendships with his regular customers and seen families grow and add new generations through the years.

“It’s almost like a big family here,” he said.

VanDuser agreed with that sentiment.

“All the locals would come in and people would stop and chat in the aisles for 20 minutes, just catching up,” she said. “You don’t see that happen in the big-box stores; you’re lucky to even see a familiar face once in a while at those places.”

The personalized service and attention at Greulich’s is something else that the bigger stores can’t emulate, said VanDuser.

She recalled taking orders, by phone, for customers who couldn’t get around very well, and having the groceries packed and ready to put in the car when the person arrived. She also remembered customers driving in from a distance to get fresh meat from the butcher counter, and having Lysiak freeze-wrap pounds and pounds of it for people to take home and save.

“This is a really sad thing for the community to lose,” said VanDuser. “What will we do without the store with the giant cow on top?”

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