On any given day, the parking lot is full at Sack-N-Save in the South Side.
The iconic grocery store at 4913 Lake Ave. caters to loyal customers looking for a bargain and is home to the chili dog. But L.B. Newey plans to close the store before the end of the year.
“I had a birthday last week and I decided it was time to move on with my retirement,” he said.
Mr. Newey, 72, put a “For Sale” sign in front of his store and has had three people contact him so far. The plan is to start lowering the inventory, slowing down and eventually closing the doors.
“We’re still operating and running an ad every week and will for the next few weeks,” Mr. Newey said. “Then we’ll evaluate where we’re at. We’ll still be here about Thanksgiving but it’s speculation.”
For more than three decades, Sack-N-Save has been a staple in St. Joseph.
“You know, I’ve owned three stores,” Mr. Newey said. “My first store was in 1969.”
That first mom and pop store was located at 18th and Olive streets. Five years later, he bought a second store across the street from Lake Contrary Elementary School. Mr. Newey and his wife, Deanna, owned those two stores for another five years before they sold them in 1979 to open the store at its current location. They’ve been on Lake Avenue for 33 years.
Mrs. Newey ran the store’s video department for years. Mr. Newey said his grocery store was the first in the St. Joseph and Kansas City area to do so.
“I remember when a customer came in, picked up the video and asked if we were selling books,” he said.
That was in the early 1980s, when VHS was making its initial wave. The couple also had video services in about 50 other locations in stores throughout the region. The first store was in Troy, Kan.
“I didn’t even know what the VHS was myself until visiting our daughter at college (in Utah),” he said. “When Redbox came along, I recognized it was time to get out.”
Mr. Newey has always been a wise and savvy businessman. He admits that most stores his size went by the wayside a long time ago.
“I feel fortunate,” he said. “I find success on giving deals. The deli has been a great success.”
Along with the deli and discounted groceries, Sack-N-Save built a reputation on its three-for-$1 chili dogs. Inflation has raised that to three for $1.50.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t quite make it to another million sold,” Mr. Newey said.
To date, the store has sold 3.8 million chili dogs.
And lots of generations have filtered through the doors at Sack-N-Save. The Neweys’ four children grew up in the grocery store business. The store has 25 employees, four of whom have been there for more than 20 years.
Nancy Healey has been with the store for 27 years, and Lana Redden, the store’s manager, has seen 25 years.
Mr. Newey has high hopes for his longtime employees.
“Some of them already have had offers,” he said. “I suspect they’ll find other good jobs.”