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37-year Alpena family grocery closes, growing concerns about fewer shopping options

The Alpena News

Alpena – A grocery store that served a Michigan community for nearly 40 years has closed, adding to concerns about declining shopping options.

Neiman’s Family Market in Alpena closed Tuesday, a victim of competition, population loss and other factors in the northern Lower Peninsula, president Bryan Neiman said.

“The pie got smaller and smaller, and we just couldn’t continue to operate the store profitably here,” Neiman, son of founder Hal Neiman, told The Alpena News.

“The online shopping, the other things that affected us, really just all caught up with us during the pandemic,” he said.

Brenda Donajkowski rings up groceries on the last day of business at Neiman's Family Market in Alpena on Tuesday.

Situated on Lake Huron's Thunder Bay about 90 miles southeast of Mackinaw City, Alpena is the 28,000-person seat of Alpena County, which has had a steadily declining and aging population.

There were 9% fewer people people living there in 2019 than in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And those over age 65 have increased as a percentage of the total, with now about a quarter being at or over retirement age.

Still a tourism draw, Alpena is home to the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which attracts divers from around the globe who visit its many well-preserved shipwrecks.

With the closure of Neiman's, shopping options are getting more scarce. The anchor store in the Thunder Bay shopping center, the pharmacy there closed last year and the Bagel Stop closed with Neiman's.

Elsewhere, Meijer opened in 2015 and there's still a Walmart Supercenter, as well as nearby Perch's IGA. But the anchor to the Alpena Mall, J.C. Penney, did not reopen after closing in the early days of the pandemic, causing additional concerns about its future.

Neiman’s has other stores that remain open in Tawas City, Clarkston and St. Clair. But the Alpena Neiman's opened in 1983 and Brenda Donajkowski was working the cash register on the last day.

“It’s kind of like a family,” she said. “You come every day, and, all of a sudden, you’re going to get up and not see these people in the morning.”