Another grocery store has come and gone at 80 Whittlesey Ave. -- the third one in recent years.
Valu King Food Market announced it would shut its doors by the end of the business day this Saturday, but a store employee on Tuesday said the store had already closed.
The closing affects about 18 associates, spokesman Erik Yorke said.
Valu King opened in December, and a billboard announcing its grand opening still stood in downtown Norwalk until recently. By Tuesday all the store's signs had been taken down, and the building appeared to be vacant.
Yorke would not elaborate on the store's unexpected closure.
"The company continues to evolve the Valu King concept to best service our customers, and it has been determined that the Norwalk location does not fit this model moving forward," he said in a statement.
Yorke said Valu King is working with the owner, JDS Properties of Rocky River, to identify a replacement tenant for the vacant space.
Valu King's closing is another disappointment in a county where unemployment rates are among the highest in the state.
Huron County's unemployment rates dropped to 12.7 percent in May, down from 14.5 percent in April. At one time, the county's unemployment rate was the second highest in Ohio, but now it ranks at No. 13, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Norwalk Mayor Sue Lesch said it's sad to see any business close, and she hopes another type of store might have better luck in that building.
It's also housed Tops Friendly Market and Giant Eagle during the past few years.
City residents tend to be loyal to locally-owned businesses, Lesch said, making it difficult for another chain to succeed.
One discount grocery store that was part of a larger chain, Apple's, shut its doors in late 2008 after 22 years in the community.
Norwalk already has a Wal-Mart Supercenter and Aldi, and its two local grocery stores have been longtime staples of the community: Gardner's Super Valu Foods, 117 Whittlesey Ave., and Schild's IGA Supercenter, 171 Milan Ave.
Schild's IGA owner David Schild attributes his store's loyal customers to incentive programs and continual improvements.
"I think people in smaller communities have a tendency to be more loyal to their local stores, especially those that have been around for a long time," he said.
The store moved into Norwalk in 1955 after Schild's parents, Irma and George, founded a store in Monroeville beginning in the 1940s.
Schild's IGA gives back to the community in several ways, including a program where customers turn in their sales receipts and the store cuts a check for 1 percent of the total sales for local schools and nonprofits.
In the store's history, Schild estimated it's given more than $2 million back to the community through the 1 percent program.
To compete with chain grocers, the store expanded its deli and bakery, as well as added a floral department.
"People will go into the new stores, give it a try," Schild said, "but I think people wonder what they've done for the community."