July 2 2014 12:00 AM

After 76 years, grocery store closes later this month; customers scramble

Ask regular customers of Goodrich’s Shop-Rite what they’ll miss when the store closes in two weeks and you’ll get the expected answers: The friendly staff of committed lifers; the meat, the wine, Annette Aldrich, Goodrich’s produce department the deli, the international foods; coowner Steve Scheffel’s magnificent white hair and epic world-weariness; Dr. Beef’s tasty sausage and tasteless jokes.

What few people realize is that they’ll miss everything about the place, the way you miss your old house or your old school. At Goodrich’s, it´s nothing to find customers who have been coming 30, 40, 50 years or longer, especially on Tuesday, Senior Citizens’ Discount day. They don´t hang and kvetch, but move through the store like churchgoers, savoring each bead of their gustatory and social rosary.

Before the 21st century dawned — and well before its final day of business July 19 — Goodrich´s was an unrepentant, unremodeled time capsule: a neighborhood market.

It´s hard to imagine Goodrich’s with hardwood floors, accent lighting and designer signage. The Goodrich’s experience has always been of a piece. That includes the well-worn linoleum and functional beige fixtures that served well enough to house the food and the people.

‘There won’t be another one like it’

Merchandise is getting sparse as Goodrich’s enters its final weeks. Usually this time of year, fresh Michigan strawberries would be stacked high in the produce department; the freezers would be stuffed with cuts of beef, pork and fish; cartoon faces would beckon from the breakfast cereal aisle. Now the sections are almost empty, steadily depleted by the last shoppers Goodrich’s will ever have.

“(The) meat is fabulous, great wine, fruits and vegetables,” said Susan Harvey, who was shopping there last week. “Everything is so good. That’s the problem — it’s unique. I don’t know where I will go.”

For years, Goodrich’s stocked specialty items such as Boar’s Head deli meats and cheeses, Zingerman’s breads from Ann Arbor and sausages made by in-house the butcher, Dr. Beef. But with the store closing, many of these customers are left wondering where to pick these items up. (See City Pulse next week for local options.)

“I come in for the baked goods, but I won’t go to (Fresh Thyme Market),” said Marilyn Ford about the tenant that will take over the space this fall. “It was fabulous, and there won’t be another one like it.”

Scheffel maintained Goodrich’s expansive wine, liquor and craft beer selection. It had hundreds of wines from around the world — including a rich Michigan selection — as well as a full stock of international liqueurs and craft beers.

Jamie Mee of Okemos enjoyed getting her wine at Goodrich’s for the past four years because of the expert staff on hand to answer questions and give recommendation. She says she’ll probably go to Vine & Brew in Okemos. Ford says she’s already starting buying bread from Meijer’s artisan section to prepare for Goodrich’s closing.

Next chapters

It’s not just the customers who are looking for a new place to call home.

“Other stores focus on rushing,” said Annette Aldrich of Goodrich’s produce department. “I’ve never felt the pressure to not help a customer, and that’s hard to find these days.” Besides the easy ability to help out customers, Aldrich said there is more to the store than just food and service.

Head butcher Dave Lindemann (that’s Dr. Beef to you) plans to retire from the meat industry. John Steward, a butcher at Goodrich’s, said he hopes to head to Darrell’s Market and Hardware in Mason. Aldrich put an application in with Tom’s Food Center in Okemos and hopes to join its produce team.

“This is its own little community here,” she said. “It’s like home. There’s nothing else like it. When I was hired I was welcomed into a second family.”

End of an era

Goodrich’s survived one big wrench in its 76-year life. In 1966, I-496 steamrolled the original mom-and-pop store (and Sinclair gas station) on St. Joseph Street near Clare Street on the near west side.

Grandpa Al Goodrich and his partners rolled the dice on a new location at Trowbridge and Harrison roads. The store rode the boom in college enrollment and fed many growing families. It withstood the pressures of shopping malls, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club by specializing in things like wine and meat, introducing humble traditions like the lumpy potato sausage the store rolled out at Christmastime.

Half a century later, the lease is up.

The owners couldn’t come to terms with developer Kevin McGraw, who wants to upgrade a conspicuous corner of East Lansing and claims Goodrich’s had a sweetheart deal that was no longer sustainable.

A warm fold in time is about to close. “I’ve never gone anywhere else,” Scheffel said. “So I don’t know where to recommend our customers to go.”

Alexa McCarthy and Alexandra Harakas contributed to this story.