Tuesday, August 03, 1999

Supermarket closes after 85 years

Not accepting food stamps hurt business

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The curtain closes today for Mannino's Supermarket in Madisonville. It is the end of a neighborhood grocer that has been delivering groceries for 85 years to some customers who couldn't get out. The store was founded in 1914 by Mr. Mannino's grandfather, Charlie Mannino.

        It means the loss of a friend who was there in times of need, like the time fire destroyed Gertrude Pearson's home on the day after Christmas in 1969.

        The grocer's fund-raising drive netted $50,000 for the family of 14 children.

        “Losing Mannino's is going to kill Madisonville,” said Mrs. Pearson, 67, who has shopped there all her life.

        Charlie Mannino, 48, who runs the store with his mother, Yvonne Mannino, 76, said the store is losing money because it cannot participate in the food-stamp program.

        An employee was caught selling food stamps illegally at the store.

        “We didn't know this was going on,” Mr. Mannino said. “When agents from the food stamp program came to the store last October and told us, it was a surprise to us.”

        Edward J. Stubenrauch Jr., officer-in-charge of the Cincinnati field office of the Ohio Department of Public Safety Food Stamp Enforcement, identified the employee who sold the food stamps as San dra Harrison.

        Acting on an anonymous tip, investigators posed as customers, visited the store eight times last year and bought food-stamp books from Ms. Harrison.

        She was charged with three felonies and placed on probation.

        Mr. Stubenrauch stated in the charges that the store could appeal the ruling or apply for a civil penalty — about $70,000 — to stay in the program.

        “We are a small business. We don't have that kind of money. With the loss of the food stamp program, we are losing about $3,000 a month,” Mr. Mannino said.

        As customers last week came to the store at 6011 Madison Road, some expressed disgust and shock.

        “This is a Madisonville tragedy,” said Steve DeMar, 65, who has been shopping there for 45 years. “This store has meant so much to this community. I just don't think they should be forced out of business.

        Luella Rice, a customer who gets her groceries delivered, said the closing is terrible news.

        “They have been delivering my groceries for 55 years,” she said. “If I say I don't have the money right away, they will say, "that's all right. We will deliver them anyway.'”

        Mr. Mannino 's mother, Yvonne, said it is time for her to retire, but she doesn't like going out this way. “I have mixed feelings about this,” she said.

        “These customers are our family. This is like destroying a family.”


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