UPDATE: Southern States Store in Huntington Closes

By: Olivia Fecteau; WSAZ News Staff, The Associated Press Email
By: Olivia Fecteau; WSAZ News Staff, The Associated Press Email
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UPDATE 8/27/14 @ 10:30 a.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – The Southern States store in Huntington has closed following a meeting of co-op members Tuesday night.

In August last year, the Southern States corporate representatives recommended the store's closure due to financial reasons.

A meeting was held where more than 100 board members packed a warehouse at the 7th Avenue store to take part in the discussion.

A vote was held, and a majority of the members voted to keep the store open, but they needed support of the community to turn things around.

Members said at the time, that the store lost money nine of the last ten years, and they were borrowing money each month to stay open.

Doug Horne, the store manager, said that staying open meant changing how they do business, which includes reaching out to the public on social media.

Tuesday night, local board members met for nearly four hours before voting to close the store.

Jim Briedwell, Southern States District Manager, tells WSAZ.com that store management and employees were given the directive to increase sales and revenue this year or permanently lose the store. He said that did not happen.

Briedwell also said that Southern States has to change with the changing demographics, industry and economy in the area, but this store just didn’t make enough effort to accomplish this.

Some of the employees will be relocated at nearby Southern States stores in Ohio and Kentucky and West Virginia.



UPDATE 9/22/13 @ 7:55 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – As the Southern States store in Huntington celebrated the company’s 90th anniversary this weekend, there was another reason to celebrate – the store was still open.

After it nearly shut down last month because of financial trouble, members say they need the support of the community to turn things around.

Cindy Carver and her husband run a beef cattle farm near South Point, Ohio and say they’ve relied on Southern States in Huntington to survive and thrive over the years.

“We're farmers. We don't have a lot of money to waste,” Carver said. “When I come in here and I buy fertilizer, I’m getting what I need. I'm not getting something that might work; I’m getting something that will work.”

Carver was among the members who voted in August to keep the store open. But it’s still struggling financially, having lost money nine of the last ten years. It’s borrowing money each month to stay open.

“The members rebelled and said, ‘We're going to keep this thing open,’ so we're here, and we're grateful for that,” Doug Horne, the store’s owner, said.

Horne said staying open means changing how they do business, which includes reaching out to the public on Facebook and other social media. He said Saturday’s anniversary open house, which attracted about 150 people, was a good starting point.

“[It’s] a slow thing coming and we know that, but yes, we're seeing new people in the door, which is what we wanted anyway,” Horne said.

Carver said that in the spring, the store will offer classes to teach people how to grow and can their own food. She keeps a cellar full of items she has canned to eat throughout the year and to give away to friends and family.

“We can learn how to do this with the produce we grow and the assets that we can learn from Southern States on how to can and to freeze produce and vegetables to sustain you through the wintertime,” Carver said.

She noted that she buys all her supplies in bulk from Southern States but also relies on the workers there for assistance and knowledge of farming problems and products.

“If I would come in and have a problem with a cow or some livestock issue, I could talk to Doug or one of the other employees about it,” Carver said.

Laughing, she added that she had a problem with stink bugs recently and the workers at Southern States knew exactly how to help her.

If the store were to close, customers would have to go to Southern States stores in Point Pleasant, W.Va. or Grayson, Ky.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 8/14/13 @ 12:30 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The Southern States Cooperative in Huntington will stay open for now.

A vote on the closing issue was held at the store Wednesday morning following a heated discussion from co-op members and community supporters on the issue.

Norman Davis, the chairman of the cooperative's board, said earlier this month that Southern States corporate representatives recommended the store's closure due to financial reasons.

More than 100 people packed a warehouse at the 7th Avenue store to take part in the discussion.

Fifty-two members of the co-op voted to close the store and liquidate the store's assets, while 86 voted to keep it open.

Terry Sweat, the Regional Manager for Southern States, said what the business needs now is investors.

"Hopefully this outpouring of customers and support can change this. This is the only thing that can change what is going on here, the support from this community and the people who come here to buy," Sweat said.

Some of the people in attendance said they could not keep their business doors open if the Huntington location of Southern States closed its doors.

According to finance records shown at the meeting, Huntington Southern States is borrowing $1.2 million per month.

"There is no net worth in the co-op, we do have assets, and there are lots of liabilities," Sweat pointed out.

Sweat encouraged people to start talking to their bankers.

"Even if you find a bank that will support it, that is not enough. You still have to sell product," he said.



UPDATE 8/14/13 @ 10:30 a.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Close to 100 people have packed into a warehouse at the Southern States Cooperative in Huntington to express their opinion on the possible closure of the store.

Members of the co-operative expected to vote Wednesday morning on a proposal to close the co-op and liquidate the store's assets.

The chairman of the cooperative's board, Fort Gay cattle farmer Norman Davis, says that Southern States corporate representatives recommended the store's closure due to financial reasons.

Davis says the Huntington store is one 25 that Southern States corporate has proposed to dissolve.

If the store closes, farmers in the region would have to travel to Southern States locations in Point Pleasant or Morehead, Ky., to buy supplies.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest on the vote.



ORIGINAL STORE 8/6/13
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - Members of the Huntington Southern States Cooperative are considering a proposal to dissolve the co-op and liquidate the store's assets.

Members are scheduled to vote on the proposed closure Aug. 14.

The chairman of the cooperative's board, Fort Gay cattle farmer Norman Davis, says that Southern States corporate representatives recommended the store's closure due to financial reasons.

Davis says the Huntington store is one 25 that Southern States corporate has proposed to dissolve.

If the store closes, farmers in the region would have to travel to Southern States locations in Point Pleasant or Morehead, Ky., to buy supplies.


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