Tipton#039;s calling it quits after 68 years

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 9, 2003

The aroma of freshly baked cakes and cookies and the sound of ringing cash registers from Tipton's Foodland and Bakery will disappear this coming weekend.

After being a part of the Ironton business community for 68 years, the store will close its doors at 8 p.m. Saturday. Fifty-four employees will lose their jobs.

"This has been very difficult for our family," Tommy Tipton, co-owner, said. "Some of our full-time employees have worked there for 30 years or more, and members of our family were active in the business."

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The store's bakery was doing well, but the supermarket business had become increasingly challenging.

Tipton said local population loss hurt revenues. Additionally, independent grocers such as Tipton have had trouble finding warehouses to supply their stores. Ten years ago, Tipton said, an independent grocer would have five to six warehouses from which to buy. This enabled the stores to buy competitively. Now, the number of warehouses have decreased from which some grocers can only choose. Some have only one or two choices. Larger stores also have the ability to buy their supplies in larger amounts, therefore reducing their costs.

"It's harder for independents to exist," he said.

Ray West, corporate spokesman for Foodland, said the decision to close the store is strictly the owners', not Foodland's.

The grocery store building is under contract to be sold, Tipton said.

On Feb. 5, Tipton Bros. Bakery Inc. sold the bakery building which includes Bentley Pharmacy to ERMI Real Estate, owned by Dan and Cheri Bentley. According to a statement obtained from the Lawrence County Auditor's Office, the property's assessed value is $370,000.

Tipton said the store's customers were more than customers. They were family.

"A great many of them were friends, some were more than that," he said. "My father and uncle had close ties to the community. We watched children grow up. It wasn't just customer relations."

Because the bakery was doing well, Tipton said his family hopes to reopen it in a different location in the future.

"We have enjoyed serving the community and hope to be able to do it again in the future," Tammy Tipton, Tommy Tipton's daughter, said. "I don't think people will let us be out for too long."

"This is really a sad day," Mayor Bob Cleary said. "For as long as I can remember, Tipton's has provided great services to our community. They were the first in line to donate. It's sad that they have come to the point where they're closing. I'm sure the whole community will miss them.

"Our heart goes out to them. Anytime a business closes and jobs are lost, there's a ripple effect, and it hurts."

Cleary said the city will try to help the Tipton family relocate and reopen their bakery.

"I hate to see it close," Pat Murphy, president of the Ironton Business Association, said. "When more places close down, the worse it's going to get. I do understand that if a business can't make any money that they can't keep the doors open."

"The whole community, including myself, has to be become proactive," Tommy Tipton said. "Our politicians and leaders have to become more proactive in selling our area, bringing jobs to the area and retaining those jobs. It's easy to talk about it, but there needs to be action. We have to have cooperation, dedication and sacrifice."

The community needs to keep supporting Ohio University Southern and other public schools, Tommy Tipton said. When young people go to college, however, he said jobs have to be available to them if they are to return to their hometowns. Those jobs also have to be more than service jobs.

"The Tipton family really feels privileged," Tipton said. "We've had an outpouring of well-wishes and people are disappointed. These are the things that show how great a community this is to live in and be a part of, and I cannot emphasize that enough."

Tommy Tipton's uncle, Julius "Jude" Tipton was the 50 percent owner of the business and one of the founders. His daughters were also active in the store, that he called a "family thing."

"The Ironton community really has been wonderful," Tommy Tipton said. "We certainly wish we didn't have to do this."

Ironton Tribune reporter Teresa Moore and photographer Howie McCormick contributed to this report.