Elmer Kurrle, 87, moved quietly around the Kingsville Market on Monday afternoon. He followed behind a contractor, who was moving lumber around the small grocery store Kurrle has owned and operated for more than 50 years.
Many of the shelves are bare. Signs of 25 percent off alcoholic beverages hang on shelves over the shop's selection of wines and spirits.
Longtime customers of the market, which sells groceries, meats, beverages, produce and liquor, stopped the owner to greet him. As Kurrle shakes hands, many of the customers offered their condolences about the market, which is set to close its doors on Saturday.
Kurrle teamed up with longtime friend Raymond "Les" Maynard to open the market on Feb. 5, 1961. Kurrle had decades of experience in the meat packing business working at his family's business, Kurrle's Packing Company in Baltimore. Maynard owned a small store Les's Market in town.
"He knew groceries and I knew meats," Kurrle said of his partnership with Maynard. Maynard was the junior partner, owning a small share in the property and business.
The pair acquired the land, which was a state road, and built the quasi-market, deli. But just four weeks after they opened Maynard died from cerebral hemorrhaging.
"We made a nice team, but unfortunately the man upstairs didn't see it that way," Kurrle said.
Maynard's son, Doug, helped to stock the store before the grand opening. Now 69, Doug Maynard dashed into Kingsville Market to grab a few meats just days before it was set to close.
"Mr. Kurrle is a nice man, he's done more for Kingsville than people know," he said. "Over the years he has supported so many of the local organizations. Lots of the older families come to the market out of loyalty."
Kurrle and Kingsville Market have become fixtures in the community. Over the years, Kurrle has donated his time and money to local churches, Boy and Girl scouts, Little League, Kingsville parade and Fourth of July parade.
"I've lived in the community since 1950 and I will be here until the day I die," Kurrle said. "I think I do what's right; if you live in the community, you support the community."
Debbie Fennell, 60, has worked as a cashier at Kingsville Market for 11 years. She said at Kingsville Market you get to know all of the customers personally.
"This last week will be hard," Fennell said. "There's some people who come in daily to get food for their evening meal. When I see some of them I know I will cry."
Fennell said Kingsville Market reminds her of a store that could have been in Mayberry, the fictional community on the popular 1960s sitcom "The Andy Griffith Show."
Diana Howlett-Pajtis, 52, a native of Kingsville, said Kingsville Market is more like the bar from the show "Cheers," where "you go in and everybody knows your name."
Howlett-Pajtis said since she has moved to Bel Air, she never has to worry about her elderly mother, who still lives in Kingsville.
"Mr. Kurrle would let my mom's nurses come down and sign for groceries," Howlett-Pajtis said. "Sometimes he would even have them delivered right to the house."
Kingsville Market has about 19 full-time and part-time employees, the majority Kurrle hires locally. One of the most noted was Gil Thompson, who could be spotted in the deli on Friday night and all-day Saturday as the "weekend meat cutter."
Thompson was known by most as the "good news" dispenser, as he was always seen bantering with customers and telling jokes.
The entire Kurrle family has worked at the market over the years.
Kurrle's sons, Blaine and Brian, are the meat manager and store's general manager, respectively. His grandson, Jeffrey Unkurt, is the frozen food and produce manager. His daughter Karen worked at the market for a short time and Kurrle's wife also assisted him at the store until she died from an aneurysm five years ago.
When the economy first took a turn for the worst, five years ago, Kurrle said he began thinking of selling the market.
The Aegis: Top stories
"Everyone seems to be hurting with the economy, little stores and big stores," Kurrle said. "I decided it's time to bail out and give someone else a chance."
Last month, a large crowd gathered at the store to thank Kurrle and wish him farewell. The crowd included representatives from the Kingsville Volunteer Fire Department, Friends of Jerusalem Mill, local Helping Hands Pantry, business owners, past employees and customers.
Once the store closes on Saturday, the meat and liquor portion will reopen after the first of the year.
The Kurrle family will still own the building and land, but the store is being leased to Michael Tutt, of Baldwin. Tutt owns another business on Joppa Road.
Brian and Blaine Kurrle will continue working in the store, which is being renamed Red's.
Although he is closing Kingsville Market, Kurrle is not officially retiring. He will assist Tutt as a confidant and adviser.
"I'm not going to retire, I will find something to do," Kurrle said. "I certainly will miss it."