A Kansas City icon is closing, reports KMBC. Leon’s Thriftway at 39th Street and Kensington Avenue opened in 1968, and by Saturday, the store will close its doors. Leon Stapleton started the business and is now in his 90s. His son, Vernon, now runs it. “We’ve served a lot of people,” Vernon Stapleton said. “A lot of people love us. We love them.”

It’s become a landmark on the city’s east side and it is one of the oldest African American-owned grocery stores in the country. “That seems to mean a lot to a lot of people,” Vernon Stapleton said. He and his father were also known for driving customers who needed help getting to and from the store. Over time though, the parking lot became empty and the shelves remained full. Now, the community source of food and pride is shutting down.

Customers and friends who have heard the news flowed through the store Monday, greeting Vernon Stapleton, and sharing concern, but mostly asking why. “I didn’t want to do it, but I can’t argue with the figures,” Vernon Stapleton said. “The figures and the business are not there anymore.” Cashier Tony Winfrey said that as customers aged, the support faded. “It’s crazy. It’s ridiculous,” Winfrey said, shaking his head. “Just to drive down 39th Street and not see this store anymore.” Added Vernon, “A lot of people that come here, their feelings are hurt. They’re mad. You’ve got to change with the times and obviously, we didn’t change enough.”

There is hope that through a miracle or donations, the store will be able to stay open and that the community will return and fill the aisles again. “They know when they walk through this door they’re going to get taken care of as family,” Winfrey said. Vernon Stapleton said if the store does stay open, it will need to change and modernize. “It might be the end the way I see it and know it now, but I don’t believe this is the end,” Vernon Stapleton said.