Some employees of the Winn-Dixie on Augusta Road in Thomson walked out of the grocery store for the last time on Saturday. The store fell victim to the corporate restructuring plan under Chapter 11 bankruptcy that put 326 stores up for sale.
After no buyer came forward to purchase the Thomson location, employees began making preparations in early August to close down the store. Once a majority of the merchandise was sold, corporate headquarters sent word to the local manager of Saturday's closing date.
"We (aren't) open to sell retail grocery anymore," said Winn-Dixie Manager Gary Moon. "We'll be selling equipment and fixtures, and stuff like that."
In the final days leading up to the closure, the remaining merchandise was priced at 70 to 90 percent off. Employees made preparations to break down equipment for sale to the general public, and at the same time, they made arrangements for employment elsewhere.
Some employees are using the opportunity to further their careers in a completely different direction. Seafood Manager Dudley Rogers is going to cosmetology school to learn the sales business, what he has thought about doing but never acted on.
"It's a good opportunity for me to be able to go back to school," said Mr. Rogers who will work at the store through September. "It let me make my mind up just to go ahead and do it."
He and his wife - who also works at Winn-Dixie - see the store closing as a positive for their family. They also realize that it has been difficult for many people who have worked at the store for a long time.
"There's a lot of people there that have been there for 20 plus years that it's kind of wrecked their world," Mr. Rogers said.
In total, the store and plant closings affected 22,000 of the company's 78,000 workers. But the local employees weren't the only ones changing plans and habits because of the restructuring plan.
The store's closure has also caused frustration for its frequent shoppers, many of whom live in the south end of McDuffie County.
"If I had to run just to pick up something quick, it was the first grocery store I got to, and it was real convenient," said Dearing resident Darlene Holliman. "They carry a couple of items that some of the other grocery stores don't carry."
Mrs. Holliman said she was not excited about having to fight traffic in town to search for some of the things that were exclusive to Winn-Dixie.
"I guess I'll just have to run on to Wal-Mart or find another store that's carrying some of the items I need," she said. "But it was real convenient when you were in a hurry or a rush and could just zip right into there and zip out."