By Luke Voogt
After half a century, Geelong West IGA will close its doors for the last time in four weeks, to the disappointment of local shoppers.
The closure will leave most of the store’s staff out of work, like manager Ken Sileav – who is sorry to see it go.
“Not only for me but I’ve got about 30ish staff here,” he says.
“But it’s beyond my control.
“We’ve all gotta look for work. I think the young ones will find work – for us middle agers it will take a bit longer.”
In Ken’s 35 years working at IGA and Foodworks supermarkets he has seen the independent traders disappear one-by-one.
“Over the years they’re just being gobbled up by the Coles and the Safeways,” the 55-year-old says. “They’ve slaughtered the independents.”
A discount chemist chain will take over the building, joining the three chemists already on the shopping strip.
“That’s just overkill,” Ken says.
“Not only is it going to push us out of work, the other chemists, they’ll be pushing s__t up hill.”
The building has been home to the supermarket under different names for 40 or 50 years, Ken says.
“That’s what it’s built for. To put a chemist here doesn’t make economic sense.”
Ken says the closure will hit the elderly the worst – especially “the ones that don’t drive”.
He added a lot of elderly migrants like the store for its ability to order in products, without contacting head office like the supermarket giants.
“A lot of people just walk in and have been in the area as long as the store or longer.”
Susie Carobbo will miss the store after working there for 23 years.
“I love the customers – they’re great,” she says.
“You see the regular faces all the time and you become really good friends with them.
“It’s kind of like an icon I’d say. A lot of the locals are very sad because it’s been there their whole life.”
Susie has two sons in primary school and will be jobless following the closure. Luckily her partner works but they’ll have to tighten the budget, she says.
The 39-year-old reckons the change in the suburb’s demographic may have affected business.
“Geelong West is becoming a little bit hipster,” she says.
“It was such a busy atmosphere here once but it’s changed a lot over the years. A lot of the elderly have gone now – there’s younger people in the area.”
Boss Burger’s Jamie Kolovos, one of several local traders who picks up supplies from the IGA, describes the closure as disappointing.
“For us it was very convenient to have a grocery store nearby,” he says.
“I dare say there’d be a few local traders that do their shopping there. I guess this is just the way big business works, they make their decision and then they move on.”
The Voice was unable to reach the store’s owner before deadline.