When the Little Market & Deli on East Willamette Avenue closes at 4 p.m. Dec. 24, it will mark the demise of a 103-year-old city landmark, a community gathering spot - and a place where, for 25 years, Janie Arvidson has bought specialty pies, cakes, ethnic food and the "best homemade chips and salsa in the city."
"There is nothing on the north end like this," Arvidson said Friday. "It is a neighborhood icon."
But Chris Bettendorf, who bought the market in 2000, said it's time to shut it down. She blames it on the "perfect trifecta": The Great Recession, which pushed unemployment higher than 9 percent; her health; and the nation's changing eating and shopping habits. There are three Wal-Marts, two Safeways and a King Soopers within a mile-and-a-half of the Little Market, said Kim Garcia, Bettendorf's daughter
"Kids are now raised to shop at the big box stores, and to buy drive-through lunches."
Still, closing a store filled with history burdens Bettendorf's soul enough to make her cry.
"I hate that I get to be the one to shut it down," she said, catching her breath between sobs. "Believe me, if I could find another way, I would."
The Little Market and Deli has been at East Willamette and Prospect Street since 1910. Its red floors are the original wood slats, as are the white wood walls. It's a place to pick up a quick sandwich. Pastrami and cheese on rye, roast beef and other sandwiches line the deli counter. Garcia makes hot sandwiches upon request on Fridays.
The store also sells basic groceries: cereals and sodas, Aunt Jemima original pancake mix and Cream of Wheat.
But mostly it makes specialty pies and cakes and holiday ethnic foods, including Runza/bieroch and Potica.
Fans of the store may not be completely out of luck. Bettendorf, 58, said she may reopen in two to three months as a one-day-a-week bakery. She will leave her store's Facebook page active as a way to find out if there's demand for her baked goods.
In the meantime, customers are taking to Facebook to bemoan Bettendorf's decision.
"We need to start a neighborhood rally - SOS (Save our Store)," one person commented. "This is such a wonderful asset to our community."
On Friday, Arvidson lifted the mechanical, wicker reindeer she bought from the store and bid workers a goodbye. The store is not just a part of Arvidson's daily life; it is a part of her personal history. One of the wooden sales counters at the front of the store came from her basement.
"The mom and pop stores are just few and far between," said Arvidson, who lives four houses east of the Little Market & Deli. "It's a sign of the times, and it sucks."