For Musser’s Markets, Darrenkamp’s is a competitor.
But while the November closure of the four Darrenkamp’s stores could drive some customers his way in the short term, Brian Musser has a hard time seeing anything good about the end of Darrenkamp’s 86-year run.
“It’s a sad day for Lancaster County,” said Musser, an owner of the namesake local grocery chain that has stores in the Buck, Columbia, Mountville and Lebanon. “They were great competitors but also really great friends. We’re saddened to see this happening.”
Other family-owned and independent grocery store operators in Lancaster County expressed similar sadness about the Darrenkamp’s news while seeing the chain’s demise as a result of rapid changes in local grocery store industry.
“We are disappointed to lose another independent grocer in the area,” said Daryl Martin, an owner of Martin’s Country Market in Ephrata, “More and more of the chains are moving in.”
Lin Weaver, an owner of Shady Maple Farm Market, the county’s largest grocery store, sees Darrenkamp’s as a sad casualty of new, aggressive chains whose business model is to take customers from existing stores.
Jim Eshleman, a longtime owner of John Herr’s Village Market in Millersville, said the arrival of Whole Foods and the impending opening of Wegmans in Lancaster has added to an increasingly competitive environment where customers aren’t as loyal and there are more places to pick up groceries.
“Everybody today is gearing up for the new people coming to town, and everybody is scared, basically,” he said.
As they anticipate Wegmans, Eshleman said, Giant and Weis have been making upgrades and cutting prices, moves that get noticed by customers who will shop around for a cheaper price.
“Right now, there’s merchandise out on the street that is as cheap as I’ve ever seen it,” he said.
In response, Eshleman said John Herr’s focuses on appealing to his niche of older customers who appreciate the store’s manageable size, the baggers on every lane and the employees who help load groceries into their vehicles.
“What you’ve got to do is take care of the class of people you have and hold on to them,” Eshleman said.