Hockingport Food Mart Vies For Liquor License

Dateline
Updated Fri, Nov 2, 2012 10:37 am

The Hockingport Food Mart located at the Sunoco station on Holiday Street is a place where folks go for their grocery needs.

The Food Mart has it all: cold cuts, ground meats, bread, milk, eggs, cheese. Just about anything on the average grocery list is here – except alcohol.

The Food Mart has been trying to get an off-premise liquor license since it opened - that was two and a half years ago.

The license would allow the store to sell alcohol and allow customers to do exactly what the license says, take it off the premises after purchase.

It’s a key business piece that the owner says would make this convenience store, well, convenient. The Food Mart's plan is only to sell beer, not wine or spirits, Monday through Saturday.

But the license comes at the steep price of a majority vote from people in Troy Township. 

Troy has been a 'dry' township from the days of prohibition up until four years ago, so each off-premise liquor license must be put on the ballot.

The Competition

Just down the road sits Riverside Bait & Tackle, a small bait shop owned by John Davis of Hockingport and his wife. Davis’s store is the only one in the area with an off-premise liquor license.

Riverside does not cut much into the Food Mart’s business because it doesn’t sell much food, unless you happen to be a small aquatic animal with a big appetite for earthworms or minnows.

However, if Hockingport Food Mart earned its liquor license, people think it might cut into Riverside’s sales, and Riverside is a longtime local business.

The majority of folks who pass through this small area of Troy are campers. With multiple campgrounds planted aside the Hocking River, tourists flock to the area to fish and enjoy the outdoors.

With camping and fishing comes a hefty load of bait and sometimes a little alcohol, so Riverside sees plenty of business from campers and fishers for the most part of three seasons each year.

The issue is that folks also need to eat. When people come from out of town, food often does not travel with them for the risk of spoiling.

Campers often swing by the Food Mart to stock up for long weekends, according to store owner Dan Loper. He says alcohol is the missing piece.

“It’s just another piece of the equation you can offer to provide them with all the stuff they bring with them,” said Loper, “their meat, fresh meat, their produce, their ice, all their pop, all the components when they’re coming camping.”

For Loper, this license is all about evening the playing field.

He wants his store to provide customers with everything they might need or want, for locals and out-of-towners. In his mind, the Food Mart not having alcohol puts the store at a disadvantage.

Staying Local

Loper beleives one of the main arguments against his store gaining its liquor license comes with the locavore attitude that continues to grow ever popular, especially in a place like Athens County.

Voters have turned down the ballot issue for a liquor license at Food Mart twice before.  Loper believes it is because they like supporting Riverside. Davis and his wife are its only employees and live in the community.  They would not comment about the levy.

Loper argues that the Sunoco sign outside his business misleads customers and says that the Food Mart is independently owned and only sells Sunoco gas.

“This isn’t a national chain,” he said. “This is an independent business. It’s owned by my family.”

Loper says that if people knew that, perhaps they would be more open to his store gaining a liquor license. But for now, the opposition holds strong in support of the bait shop.

Loper says he does not wish to drive the bait shop out of business. He simply wants an equal opportunity.

“We don’t wish [Davis] any ill will at all,” he said. “We want both of us to prosper and for both of us to be successful.”

Slideshow: Hockingport Food Mart

The Hockingport Food Mart is a one-stop shop for many of its customers. Patrons can purchase most everything at the store, meat, bread, produce; everything but alcohol. Looming in the background of the store lies an empty wall, splattered with paint and primer, waiting for something new to go in.

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