The faded red barn on Traffic Avenue has been home to Sumner Animal Grub for nearly 40 years. Customers know it as the place to go for knowledgeable advice about animal food care. Some know “the Grub” as a place to hang out and shoot the breeze.
“We have people that aren’t just customers,” owner Jerry Garrison said. “You’re not just selling a refrigerator. They come back every week.”
Garrison, 67, said he knew the doors would close eventually, but didn’t think it would happen quite so soon.
He received a letter at the end of May explaining that the building had been sold to nearby Sunset Chevrolet and that his lease would end Aug. 31.
Garrison said the building owner offered to sell to him for a price he couldn’t afford.
He looked for other locations inside and outside Sumner, but he couldn’t find a suitable space and decided it was better to shut down for good. Sunset Chevrolet offered an extension into September, but Garrison said he’s trying to leave before then.
The Grub is one of the few remaining family-owned feed stores in the area and the only one in Sumner that sells everything from fish food to horse grain, he said.
Customer Larry Grace said he started going there 36 years ago to buy horse food when his daughter dabbled in Future Farmers of America. The business occasionally donated items to her 4-H club.
“I was really shocked,” Grace said of Animal Grub’s closure. “Very shocked.”
Early in the morning, he would join a few other local men drinking coffee and talking around the potbelly stove at the Grub, he said.
“It was such a comfortable feeling going to the food store,” he said. “I guess they’re all so great because they treated you like family.”
Sumner Animal Grub is at 800 Traffic Ave., about a block away from the car dealership. Sunset Chevrolet owner Phil Mitchell said it could be a couple months before the building is converted into employee parking.
Sunset had been seeking space for employee parking in order to open more street parking for customers, Mitchell said. The city’s one-hour parking limits are a challenge, he said.
Mitchell said he wants to keep the large, antique-looking barn as a shell with parking inside.
“We’re just lucky that we could purchase it,” Mitchell said. “There’s not a lot of property that you can build parking on.”
The city approved new guidelines in March that make it more difficult for the business to move into adjacent neighborhoods. Some residents fought for months to create clear rules limiting expansion of the car dealership.
Jerrod Garrison, Jerry’s son, thought he might take over the business when his father retired. He said he’s a little disappointed because the family has built relationships with customers.
“People know your face, and once you’re established that way, you want to keep it going,” Jerrod Garrison said.
As for Jerry Garrison, he said he’s been ready to retire for a couple years. His wife, June, was not.
“In the back of my mind, years ago, I put it in the Lord’s hands,” June Garrison said. “Of course, it came as a shock, but this is our answer and we’re going to take it.”
June Garrison said she’ll look back fondly on her memories of community Christmas parties and hot chocolate at the Grub.
All three Garrisons said they’ll miss their customers the most.
One thing Jerrod Garrison said he won’t miss is the loud train that speeds past the store’s doors.
“We’ve been here 36 years and it’ll still make you jump,” he said.