TAMPA — After 75 years of selling groceries in South Tampa, Whaley's Market will close its doors Sunday.
The Whaley family, the fourth generation to run the store, broke the news to 30 or so workers last Thursday, said employee Maryann Mireider. They were told that the owners, sisters Linda Whaley Bublitz and Laurie Pearson and brother Todd Whaley, were unable to come to a lease agreement with the Whaley's Plaza landlord.
"Everybody's upset," said 61-year-old Mireider, who has worked at the store for 11 years. "We have customers who have shopped here for 50 years. I'm just crying all the time."
Opened four generations ago by C.L. Whaley, the quaint market has long been considered an institution in the ever-changing SoHo district. It began as an open-air business on Howard Avenue in 1934 before it was enclosed in the 1950s.
At one time, there were six Whaley's markets in Tampa, but only the one on Howard has remained over the last decade.
Whaley sold the store to his nephew, Ron Whaley, in 1974, but was involved in the store until he died in 1989. Ron Whaley, 66, retired and passed the store on to his children a year ago.
Ron Whaley did not wish to comment on the lease situation, saying only, "it's a very touchy situation."
"It's just a sad day, and we appreciate all of our loyal customers," he said.
Whaley's daughters did not return calls for comment, and his son could not be reached.
The market, known for its fresh deli items and high-quality meats, will be open its regular hours this weekend, closing at 8 p.m. Sunday. Much of the market's food will be put on sale, Mireider said.
Emily Nipps can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3431.