By now, nearly everyone knows that Harbor Foods is closing up. Owner Ed Ambrose, who is feeling terrible about the closing, issued a statement: "I'm sorry to report that our store had a major refrigeration breakdown, causing loss of all frozen and most refrigerated food. The cost for such a great loss and replacing the system is too high for this small family business to absorb. I would like to thank the large number of loyal employees and customers that have become our dearest friends over the last 45 years."
That would date back to 1970, the same year that Ed Ambrose and Tom Wallace made a deal to acquire the old IGA store. Ed was 23 years old at the time and Tom was a little older. Ed is still the owner, but Tom has moved on and lives in Florida. Tom's son, Rich Wallace, 50, took over for his dad as head butcher, and has been a major part of the daily operations. Rich remembers in the very beginning, at 6 years old, helping with whatever he could in the store. He has been with the store ever since. He said that he knows over half the customers by name, and that the customers make the job enjoyable. Rich is hurting over the decision to close, and even feels responsible to a certain degree. He said, referring to the store, "It's like losing a family member."
The store's name changed from IGA to Centrella Harbor Foods, but not much else has changed. Many of the customers, including Micael Perini, still refer to the store as IGA. Micael wasn't even born when IGA was in business, but he said that is what his mom always called it. He referred to Harbor Foods as a "good old-fashioned, home-town store." He said that many people are devastated, and said, "I don't know what this town is going to do without this store." Another loyal customer, Dirk Ostrander, whose dad managed the A&P store in Zion until it closed, said, "It's very sad." He was perplexed, and said, "What am I going to do now? Where am I going to go?!" He said that Harbor Foods was a big part of the community.
Rich said that Ed is feeling bad about letting down the community, and that Ed is taking this very hard. In his statement, Ed said, "We may be back in a smaller capacity and new location with the same quality meat and produce our customers have come to expect." Debbie Coan, insurance agent for American Family, has been in business for 15 years, in the same plaza as Harbor Foods since 2006, and has known Ed for 25 years. Debbie said that Ed has done so much for the community. He has always been willing to help anyone who asks, and he has never expected anything in return. She went on to say, "We need to have more people in the world like him!"
Jody Robison, 47, who started working at Harbor Foods at the age of 16, said that Ed was very big-hearted. Since 2009, Jody has been committed to the store, and has been the grocery manager for some time. He said, "We had no choice but to close up... it's very unfortunate!" It's uncertain if they will open up again. Ed and Rich did meet with the landlord, Bobby Teligadas, on February 18, but nothing was settled. Rich remains very optimistic, and hopes for the best. He said that Ed really feels bad for the customers, especially for the ones who rely on their delivery service, and also for his employees. Who knows... maybe there will be an IGA in Winthrop Harbor's future. For now, stop in and say your goodbyes and take advantage of the markdowns.