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Letter: Shopping Local At Town-n-Country
Buying Now For The Future
August 27, 2014

eaders are writing in about shopping at Town & Country Grocery, and what life might be like if Walmart were the only store in town. Also, some words on how the smaller grocer could better compete.

(Most recent letters are at the top.)

To the Editor:

I’ve read a lot of letters giving reasons to keep Town and Country in business, and agree with all of them. I’d like to add just one more. It has to do with my own personal economics and quite surely, many others who live near-by.

Like them, I buy meats and vegetables that are marked down because they have been displayed beyond a certain date. I either eat them promptly or freeze them.

If Walmart were to prevail, not only would the quality of my purchases go down, my grocery costs would increase substantially.

Chuck O’Malley

Here’s something to think about in the Wal-Mart vs. Town and Country debate:

Ruth knew this was coming about a year ahead of time. Were there any changes made to compete? What could she deliver that Wal-Mart can’t? Did she tour other Wal-Mart Express stores to see what she could do differently?

This is NOT a “pro Wal-Mart” letter, but it is a “get off your behind and do something” letter.

Believe me, I shop local whenever possible: our great hardware store, my haircuts at Georgies, our local restaurants, and Town and Country. And until recently, (sadly) Denton’s Pharmacy.

I believe there are plenty of things T&C could do better and differently, many have been mentioned in this forum, such as emphasize the meat department, which Wal-Mart can’t hold a candle to. Fresh fish, shrimp and crab from our own local boats. Move toward a “Whole Foods” presentation with fresh artisan breads, gourmet cheeses, good wine selection, basically offer everything that the other store doesn’t, and can’t under their operating model. Get rid of the gas pumps. Give the store a fresh look inside AND out. We have a very eclectic community, and I’m sure there are lots of folks who would love to see a store like this here. I would definitely shop there. How about a simple pad and pencil at the T&C front door asking folks what they would like to see in the store?

Wal-Mart, for all it’s detractors, has it’s place. Just like Dollar General. There are folks in this community who appreciate and need lower prices on staples like bread and milk and gas and yes, jobs. You won’t hear from them in this forum, but they are there.

I will continue to shop at Ruth’s whenever possible. Just an idea here.

Just Sayin’
Charlie Garrett

To the Editor:

Prior to WalMart, my wife and I frequented Town & Country and the Dollar General. Each time we found what we needed, but consistently felt that our business was not appreciated. No smiles, no (meaningful) “thank you”. The stores seemed drab and lifeless.

After WalMart opened we noticed an incredible change at Dollar General, practically overnight. It was now bright, cheery and well organized. The staff greets us with a smile and “welcome” when we arrive and a sincere “thank you” when we leave.

Unfortunately Town & Country remains the same…quality goods presented in a drab, disorganized manner by a staff that would rather be somewhere else. If T&C would simply address these issues in the same manner as Dollar General – revamp and retrain/replace – it would be our go-to source for all our groceries.

For now, it Paul’s Produce, Dollar General and the long trek to New Bern’s Harris Teeter for major grocery shopping. We go to WalMart when we have to and T&C with great reluctance to see if anything has changed. It would be a shame to see T&C close when a simple makeover would make it a store that WalMart, by nature, will never be – a friendly, small town destination with quality people and products.

Steve Ura

To the Editor,

WalMart is not your friend. What you are seeing right now in Oriental is the typical WalMart business practice. When they first move into a area they will keep their prices so low that the local stores can not compete. Once these stores have closed, you will see the prices slowly inch up.

WalMart has its place but I would not choose them for either hardware or groceries. The hardware is cheap junk and just does not last. As for groceries, paper goods, some canned goods, soda and that sort of thing may be fine, but the meat and vegetables are not for me. You have to be very careful. I was in a WalMart last week and saw a sign advertising local produce. Upon inspection, I noticed that the item I was interested in had a Product of Mexico label on it. When I asked about this, I was told that the item was local to a town in Mexico. Their meat is just not going to happen. Talk to any pet owner about the toxic pet treats from China that they refused to pull from the shelves.

So the bottom line is that yes, you can save a few dollars now that they are in the “put the competition out of business” mode, but that will stop as soon as the goal is reached. Then the super low prices will disappear and you are left with no savings and, in my opinion, a questionable product.

Your choice; but I would prefer to spend a few dollars more and get my food from a local grocer or farm stand. Life has enough problems and I am not going to add worrying about my food source to the list in order to save pennies.

Dave Boxmeyer
Beaufort, NC


One of the nicest things about living in Oriental is the delightful mix of charm and functionality of the business community. We have appreciated this in the past when we anchored in the harbor and shopped at Town and Country grocery or the Village Hardware etc. Within walking or bike riding distance of anywhere in town, there was everything we needed and shopping was always a pleasant and friendly experience. Because of this small town charm with functionality, we recently bought a home here and plan to live in Oriental for the rest of our lives. But there is a cloud on the horizon and a lot of folks do not see the problem ahead. The problem is Walmart.

All across America there is a pattern in local economies when a Walmart builds a store near a small town and I sure hope folks in Oriental will not let it happen here. You see, Walmart is such a huge company, they can even run their new stores at a loss for a whole year if they want to, and that would cause the small business competion to close up shop and shutter their buildings. Once competition is gone then Walmart can increase prices and the small town has no choice but to shop at Walmart. And the small town is left with a street full of empty and shuttered businesses providing greatly reduced tax base. This is how Walmart kills little towns like Oriental.

Prices are important to all of us. We all have a budget to contend with but the budget includes our taxes and Oriental needs the tax base of all our small businesses too. Shuttered businesses will depress the whole community. If all the current small businesses are shuttered it will become most unattractive and inconvenient to live here. Then services will be cut or taxes increased. That will be felt in our family budgeting for sure.

We will be shopping at Town and Country where Chick recently agreed to stock my favorite cereal and my husband’s favorite apple pie. We are greeted by name, prices are good and the butcher on the premises always has something my husband wants. Fresh fruits and veg are more interesting to me and there is always a good selection there too. We will be shopping at the Village Hardware enjoying the good humored banter and excellent service too.

I hope we can save Oriental from having to endure a shuttered and abandoned business district. A small but thriving business community that has grown up with the town ties everything together. They are committed to the town and reliant on it.

Ann and Neville Clement
Oriental, NC

To the Editor:

I firmly believe that if Ruth should decide to give top flight service to each and every person who walks thru her doors, she will be in busy for a very long time. I have been in Oriental for most of 5 years and no one has ever told me good morning or good evening or thank you!


Ken Reed
Oriental, NC

To the Editor:

Oriental WalMart shoppers beware.

I recently put diesel fuel in my truck at the WalMart in Oriental and was surprised to see that the price was higher than at the WalMart in Grantsboro. This past week I went to the Grantsboro store for fuel and it was again cheaper than Oriental. I asked the girl at the register why was the fuel more money in Oriental and told her I felt it should be the same price. She informed me that WalMart does not do price matches with other WalMart stores, only their competitors.

You may ask why is that a problem for us that shop in Oriental. It has come to light recently that Town and Country may be closing their doors due to a drop in business since WalMart opened down the road.

Here is what concerns me and should concern everyone that shops in Oriental.

If Town and Country closes, WalMart can increase their prices with no fear of competition. Dollar General does not carry as many products as WalMart so Dollar General will not be much competition. WalMart sent employees to Town and Country prior to opening, with pads and pencils to write down prices so they could sell items cheaper. It is obvious WalMart wants to be the only grocery store in Oriental.

Another fact. Next time you go to WalMart, check out the label on the ground beef in the plastic tubes in the meat department. You will be shocked to see where it comes from, I know I was. In fine print it says product of USA, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico and a couple other foreign countries. I sure don’t want to make a medium rare hamburger out of that meat. Town and Country has some of the best meats in the county and are cut fresh daily. Tommy and his staff will cut meat to order and bend over backwards to make sure customers are satisfied.

I do pick up some things at WalMart but I do my main shopping at Town and Country and Piggly Wiggly. I have gone in Town and Country and asked if they could special order some things and they looked up the item and had it in the store the next week. We need to support these two businesses and not let a giant like WalMart put them out of business. We need to remember what our local stores have given back to this county.

Over the years I have been to Town and Country for donations for different things and they have always given their support. During the time my wife was ill and medical bills were coming in, Ruth allowed us to open an account to charge groceries. This is what it means to have a locally-owned store in the community. When I go in to Town and Country it is nice to be called by name and when you check out, if needed, your bags carried out to your car.

Let’s show our support for Town and Country before it’s too late.

Bob Lyon

year ago – on August 22, 2013 – the public in Oriental first got word that WalMart planned a store 255 feet outside the town limits. That would put it just a few hundred feet from the independently-owned in-town grocery store, Town & Country, which Ruth Ireland first opened in 1973. Some welcomed the prospect of a WalMart to our small town, others opposed it, largely out of concern of what impact the world’s largest retailer would have on Oriental’s smaller stores. WalMart opened in May and, as predicted, business at the indy grocer has been down. Oriental resident Jean White asks in a letter that others join her in still shopping at “Ruth’s.” Her letter has prompted others to write as well.

Good Morning Oriental and Town Dock Editor,

I will be moving to the Oriental area soon and I do check and visit the Town Dock site a few times each day at work. It is an easy way to stay up-to-date on information – weather, new events, etc.

I would now like to share a similar situation in the area I live now. It is now growing but it was mainly a rural farm — and what is sometimes called sub-rural — area when I moved here. There is a small grocery store that is family owned and been here since about 1944 or so. They have a great butcher. They offer the most excellent family recipe-made sausages and prepared salads. (potato, macaroni, coleslaw, etc.) They have a great reputation and history and were even “grand-fathered” in and hold a license for carrying liquor.

Down the county “rural” highway there are two big competitors — 1 way, a “Giant.” 2nd way, “Harris Teeter.”

No real concern for several reasons.

A – The meat. You can even specially order cuts, kinds, etc.
B – Always fresh local grown produce.
C – The family is members of the largest Parish in the area and a lot of us know members personally.

The big stores? If you have to buy a lot of stuff for a large party or family gathering — lots of soda, paper plates, chips — or you have not yet learned about them, etc. But the most important stuff – that is from the local folks.

I wish Town n Country all the best. I hope they are still around with the reputation of the butcher, as having a local small grocery store, I do look forward to.

Dee Hundertmark
Howard County, MD

To The Editor,

With the heightened interest in the future of Town & Country grocers has come the rumor that they may imminently close their doors. Please know that this is not a done deal by any means, and such hearsay is further hurting their business. Trucks are indeed making regular deliveries and Renee continues to get in wonderful new foods—items such as the famous Ezekiel bread as well as Rudi’s bread (both in the frozen section to the left of vegetables), among other things.

Right now is the time to patronize Town & Country and let them know your intentions to buy your groceries there and help them stay in business. Go shop there bountifully, sign your name to an “I Love Town & Country” flyer and help them understand that their presence is crucial in our village for a myriad of reasons. If Town & Country goes, there will never be anything like it again. You can make a difference, so…

S.O.S. “Save Our Store!”

Jean White

To the Editor and my Oriental stalwart friends:

Paula Valinoti wrote a perfect letter to the editor in this week’s Pamlico County News, and Jean White wrote a similar one in Letters to the Editor in TownDock.net yesterday. I would ask that you read these short letters and take to heart the message therein.

Ruth Ireland has voiced that she is going to “stick it out” another few months, and then board up. Those of us who were against Wal-Mart locating practically next door to Ruth’s knew this would be the result. I felt the Express should be placed in Bayboro, Alliance, Reelsboro, all of those towns up the road who have no grocery at all. But the Wal-Mart executive who owns a house in River Dunes wanted it close to his house. Money wins. Too bad he didn’t put it next to River Dunes. You can guess why.

All of that aside, if we do not keep Ruth’s going by spending our grocery dollars there, we will have a boarded up grocery, lose Tommy’s wonderful meats, and the very fresh veggies that we can find at Ruth’s. Just drive into Little Washington and see what happens to a lovely town when unintended consequences happen. Boarded up almost everything. Also for the family, there will be a void in their ability to make a living.

The economy isn’t getting any better, but we still need to buy groceries. It is our choice where we do this. If you do your own price check you will not find Town and Country higher than Express. In fact I have been told that Express is higher than Grantsboro’s Neighborhood Walmart. There is very little or no difference in prices between the stuff we buy all of the time in Ruth’s and Express. And Ruth’s is consistently much lower on lots of items I buy, meats, fresh veggies, store brand cans, etc. Have you noticed any courtesies at Express? I have been told there are none. No greeting, no quick check through. Compare this to the service you receive at Ruth’s.

Please continue to shop at Ruth’s. If she doesn’t have the item you want, she will always get it for you, as she has for the 10 years we have lived here.

Carol Small

To the Editor,

The character of this town is defined in businesses such as Town & Country. I could only hope that more such businesses could prosper in this unique environment. It would be extremely undesirable if the character of this town and community is ever defined by Walmart.

I have not entered thru their doors and I flatly refuse to shop there. Beyond the terrible quality of their products there is also their questionable business practices, and additionally you might as well just write a check to China.

Kevin Rains

Dear Editor:

Paula Valinoti wrote a beautiful Letter to the Editor of The Pamlico News in this week’s issue pointing out the importance of patronizing our village’s Town & Country grocery store in order for it to remain viable and stay in business. In hopes of reaching an even larger audience, I would like to share thoughts as well.

If you want Town & Country to remain open, I beg you to patronize this wonderful resource and urge your friends to do the same. Nowhere will you find meats like Tommy’s, and Daphne set the produce on a fine course several years ago with beautiful fruits and vegetables well displayed.

Don’t be a “food snob” and do the lion’s share of your shopping elsewhere when a “mom & pop,” locally-owned store with small-town charm stocks items such as Cardini’s Caesar Salad Dressing, hearts of palm, low-sodium soy sauce, a good selection of specialty cheeses and delicious artisan breads. Renee, Rebecca and Maureen always make every effort to stock customers’ special requests, too.

Town & Country’s personal service is legendary — Chick stopped my husband, David, one day to say that the small sacks of Washington Flour were in so he’d better buy one and bring it home because I’d been looking for it. Knowing my purchasing habits, Chick also offers a “heads up” when our often purchased items are included in the weekly sale newspaper insert.

“Ruth’s,” as our village grocer is also known, is a good community citizen as well, always helping with St. Thomas Church Outreach’s Easter, Thanksgiving & Christmas food baskets and a friend to Fishes & Loaves food bank, too.

Saving Town & Country is up to you—the only way it can survive is if you, your friends and your neighbors patronize this wonderful neighborhood store. Spread the word and do your part so we won’t wake up one day to find doors locked, windows boarded up and an empty, vacant building as a reminder of what once was.

“Keep Ruth’s In Business!”

With great concern,

Jean White

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