Augusta Grocery Store Owner Speaks After Being Shut Down - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

Augusta Grocery Store Owner Speaks After Being Shut Down

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Customer Donald Streeter can't believe the Laney Supermarket is closed.  He tells former owner Il Choi, "I pray to God that you open back up. You good to us. We need you."

For the past three years, IL Choi has owned the "Laney Supermarket". During that time.. he says customers became friends. Those friends have often became like family.  IL Choi says, "you know sometime I would drive three miles from over here, pick them up. People bring over here. After they do their shopping I take them home." That ended last Tuesday when Suntrust Bank closed Choi's store saying he is severely behind on rent. Everything inside the store was hauled outside and left in the parking lot. Dozens of people gathered in hopes of grabbing the merchandise. But it was packed up and taken to a local food bank.  Choi says he lost more than one hundred thousand dollars of items in one day.

Choi blames the problem on WIC. He explains, "two years ago first time, you have the paperwork not right. We went to Atlanta fifteen times trip."

He says the government program refused to grant him a vendor license.  "This area is 97 percent EBT and only three percent cash. Then 40 percent WIC." A large number of them don't have reliable transportation to get their groceries.  Neighbor Timothy Jones says, "when you don't have transportation to get around it's kind of hard." Neighbor Conchita Hall agreed saying, "We got to go too far. I got to go way on 15th street on a bicycle and I ain't as young as I used to be but I get there."

Choi says he hopes to open again one day And get back to the business of helping those who have been shut out by his store's closing. "This community need grocery store over here. The big boys don't want to come over here."

The Director of Communications for the Department of Public Health says Mr. Choi was not granted a vendor's license due to insufficient inventory. The WIC program has tight stipulations on inventory in an effort to combat fraud.

Mr. Choi says he's in the process of securing money to buy the store and open again.


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