By Janie Southard
Longtime St. Henry grocer Charlie Gels is planning to move his grocery, Gels Market, a few blocks up the road into the old Dave's Market along Ohio 118.
"Our offer has been accepted ... and if all goes smooth we'll open the first of July. I'm really excited. I think it's a good fit for me and for the community," Gels told The Daily Standard this morning about purchasing the Dave's Market facility. "We're just down to working out details and signing the papers."
Gels declined to name the other investor who will partner with him on the purchase of the facility, which also includes the gas station and car wash.
"That may not make me popular around here, but the whole thing came as a package," said Gels referring to the station and car wash.
Gels Market in St. Henry opened in the early 1950s by Gels' father, Jerry Gels. The new Gels venture will restore the 30 jobs lost when Dave's Market closed.
Dave's Market, owned by Dave Evans of Lima, opened in November 2003 and closed approximately five months later. Evans cited a boycott of his market by the St. Henry community as the reason for his business downturn.
The 23,000-square-foot store is owned by Kriegel Holdings of Van Wert, which has filed a $2.3 million lawsuit against Evans for never paying a single rent payment.
Evans also borrowed $500,000 from the Mercer County revolving loan fund to help get the business going.
Earlier this morning, Larry Stelzer, Mercer County Community Development Director, confirmed that a deal is in the works that "has potential to make sure the county has it's check in hand." Stelzer expects the deal will close next week.
The sale of all buildings and equipment to Gels, as well as payments Evans made on the loan, will net the county $400,000 of the original $500,000 loan. The county secured that money last year from a state grant.
"We've met with the state, and writing off the other $100,000 is fine with them," Stelzer said.
Along with closing the St. Henry store, Evans also closed all of his Lima-area groceries. Only a couple BP gas stations that he owns in Lima remain.
What happens to Evans now? "He loses a ton of money," Stelzer said, "through mismanagement. But we won't worry too much about him."