SABINA — Shelving has been assembled and now is ready to get stocked with groceries at Uhl’s Market where the target to re-open the store, which has been vacant for eight months, is the first week in June.
The grocery store located on East Washington Street (State Route 3/U.S. Route 22) in town will have everything it had before, just a little less shelf space, said Robb Uhl, co-owner along with wife Kim.
The prior grocery business operator, Houchens Industries Inc., closed up shop last September, citing dropping sales. Uhl and his wife owned the real estate — that is, the building and the land — and as landlords they tried to find a new grocer tenant.
Uhl’s IGA was Sabina’s only full-service grocery store, and the shutdown was regarded as some of the worst town-related news for a while in a village that’s had its share of economic bad news since at least the Great Recession which struck a dozen years ago.
And while there were prospective grocers initially interested in the facility with its 25,000 square feet of sales floor, it didn’t work out.
“The landscape for independent grocers is a shrinking one,” observed Uhl.
At that point, with intentions to retire and a family asset going unused, he was willing to sell or lease the building for other uses besides groceries.
About that time the coronavirus hit, so everything became unstable and he thought the “best thing would be to go back in and refurbish, reset, and restore the store.”
Because the population size of Sabina has shrunk over the years, the grocery floor square footage is being reduced about 20 percent, which frees up a walled, separate area of between 5,000 to 6,000 square feet where the Uhls would like to see a complementary business establish itself.
The separate business space also helps reduce the cost of the utilities footprint of the building, he notes.
The reopened Uhl’s Market will remain associated with IGA, Uhl is pleased to announce.
Former customers will see faces both familiar and new among the employees, though protective face masks may make it harder to identify the former staffers.
The masks, hand-sanitizer station, and Plexiglas shields will be the main changes. Store staff will be prepared to wipe off grocery carts and take other measures to increase the store’s safety, he said.
Gasoline sales will remain out front, and the front entrance area will be like a mini-convenience store for a grab-and-go customer.
Sabina Mayor James L. Mongold is extremely pleased with the return to town of a full-service grocery store and with the identity of the store operator.
“People are so excited. They’ve been asking when he will open, what will be included, and so forth,” Mongold said. “Every word I’ve heard or seen has been very positive. Robb and the Uhl Family have been household names my entire life, and I know they will be welcomed back and supported by everyone in Sabina.
“I just want to remind everyone to thank him. Not only is he doing this in uncertain times, but he’s coming out of retirement to do so for the village and people he cares for,” added the mayor.
Uhl said, “My family, we’re glad to be back in Sabina. And it’s always been the place where I was glad to have a grocery store, and we’re hoping that the community will come back and support us. We’ll be clean, fresh, and friendly just like we were before, and we’d just be tickled to death to see everybody come back.”
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.