- Associated Press - Thursday, October 1, 2015

GARNAVILLO, Iowa (AP) - A small city in eastern Iowa has bid farewell to a grocery store that had been the community’s only market for about the past four decades.

Longtime customers stopped by Bob’s Food Store in Garnavillo on Wednesday to say their goodbyes and offer well wishes to owners Bob and Verla Bente. Students from Clayton Ridge Middle School visited to drop off letters addressed to the couple.

Bob Bente opened the grocery store in 1977 and moved it to a new building in 1984, The Telegraph Herald (http://bit.ly/1Ri98t7 ) reported.

“I always figured that I enjoyed my work, so I’d continue doing it for a long time,” Bob Bente said. “Now, I am 74, though. It’s getting to be the right time to step down.”

Over the years, the Bentes had developed a close relationship with many customers, which made it more difficult to close.

“Some people were a bit emotional,” Bob Bente. “You really get to know the customers in a small town like this. They become family. A lot of people said they will really miss us. There were even a few tears.”

The couple is looking forward to retirement, but “it will be a major adjustment,” Verla Bente said.

Garnavillo resident Nancy Clefisch understands why the Bentes are closing the store, but she said it’s a major loss for the community.

“There was a big convenience to being able to shop here,” Clefisch said. “Now, we will have to drive out of town to Guttenberg or Elkader to do our shopping.”

In addition to the convenience, many customers also frequented Bob’s Food Store because of its owners. Guttenberg resident Kevin Hennessey made a special trip to the store Wednesday to see Bob and Verla Bente.

“(Bob) was very customer-oriented,” he said. “He is a guy with a big heart who loved to serve and care for people, and he did that for a very long time.”

Garnavillo is a town of about 700 residents.

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Information from: Telegraph Herald, http://www.thonline.com

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