‘In the people business selling groceries’: A Panhandle grocer discusses values in challenging times.

Great State

BEAVER, Okla. (KFOR) – Craig Downing and his dad Bob usually share a coffee every morning.

They always talk groceries, supply and demand.

“He retired three years ago,” says Craig.

It’s only been lately with restaurants closed and Craig being extra busy that the daily meetings were interrupted.

Craig smiles and says, “He will give his advice on everything from A to Z.”

Bob Downing opened his grocery store back in 1963, and he almost left it before buying out his partner.

He and wife Linda used to dream and pray about taking over the big store across the street until that prayer was answered.

She recalls, “I said, ‘God, please send us some business.’ And as clear as day, I heard him say, ‘One day you’ll be here.'”

Craig’s earliest memories include filling the old ice machine on Saturdays and going shelf to shelf for the annual Christmas inventory.

“We would pair up with pen and paper,” he remembers.

These days, as he said, are extra challenging.

First it was rice and beans in short supply.

Now it’s pasta and sauce.

Downing says, “You can combine the worst snowstorm that you can remember working and the biggest holiday. Combine the two and it would compare to the level of insanity this has been.”

The delivery trucks come at all hours.

The Downings rely on longtime employees and even former employees to help out, often on short notice.

“The staff has just been incredible,” says Craig. “Through what hours they’re willing to work and come in.”

They keep the doors open on good sense and good relationships.

Their small town statement is simple.

“We aren’t in the grocery business to serve people,” it says. “We’re in the people business serving groceries.”

Craig says, “It’s very rewarding and humbling.”

Craig Downing came back to Beaver in 1993 to help run the family grocery store.

His son is now working with him.

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