Gabby Market has been resurrected by a couple of eager Devers.
“It’s nice to keep a small-town grocery store alive,” said Laci Dever, the new co-owner with her husband, Shane.
Dormant for nine months, the venerable market is alive and kicking, and following an extensive rehab, shiny and fresh inside. The Devers reopened it last Friday at Park Avenue (Route 18) and Franklin Farms Farm in North Franklin Township, undoubtedly to the great relief of residents in an area sorely underserved grocery-wise.
There was a steady stream of customers Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon.
“I think it’s great. It’s only a mile from my house,” said Reese Bruckner, a longtime North Franklin Township resident, who purchased a few items Wednesday.
“It’s been amazing, the excitement and appreciation people have shown,” Laci said.
“People have been supporting us so much,” Shane said. “We’re truly thankful for that.”
Gabby Heights Market – slightly different name – opened in April 1957 across Park Avenue from its current and longstanding site. It ultimately fell into disrepair and closed in June.
Now it’s back, with 2,400 square feet inside plus storage behind the store and parking for about 20 vehicles.
Almost all of the interior space is occupied, with six aisles of shelves brimming with items, plus areas for produce, prepared foods and other standard fare. There is a coffee bar as well.
A delicatessan – Laci’s domain – already is a signature section of Gabby Market.
There is room for expansion, as the Devers own the adjacent lot.
For the Devers, this has been a resurrection on two counts. They are back in a business they’ve known well, Shane through his roots, Laci since starting out years ago at Minteer’s Market in Claysville, her hometown.
The couple worked together at Interstate Foodland in Canton Township, Shane as manager, when his family sold it in January 2013. Deed transfers published in the Observer-Reporter showed Duritza Properties paid $1 million, while also buying the Canonsburg Shop ’n Save.
Shane is a fourth-generation member of the Stanley clan to operate a grocery. The family’s previous holdings included three other former Foodland stores: East Maiden Street in Washington, Waynesburg and Uniontown.
“I missed serving people in this area,” said Shane, a 2000 graduate of Trinity High School. “It’s been amazing being able to interact with people again, putting a smile on their faces.”
The Devers are smiling a lot, although some may perceive it as delirium. “It’s been about a 15- to 16-hour job (each day) since we bought the place Dec. 23. I haven’t slept since Monday night, but I’m still standing somehow,” Shane said, chuckling while adding that having 3 1/2-year-old twins – Liam and Fiona – only adds to the fatigue factor.
Gabby Market is a source of pride with him, as well as a source of personal nostalgia. Shane was among the generations of North Franklin kids who frequented the place while growing up.
“I rode my bike there three or four times a week,” he said. “It really bugged me seeing the shape it was in. I thought I had to do something with it.”
While sorting through the mess, the couple opened a walk-in freezer being used for storage and found a treasure: a framed page from the April 24, 1957, Observer-Reporter with an article proclaiming the store’s pending opening. Below it was an ad from Gabby Heights Market.
“We were pretty thrilled to see that,” Shane said.
He and Laci head a work staff of seven, which includes two relatives: Laura Johnson, Laci’s mother, and Dawn LeMasters, a cousin of Shane.
Three months of intensive interior work prevented the Devers from developing a social media presence, but that is ahead. Shane said a website and a Facebook page are being developed. The Devers are printing a traditional weekly flier.
They are excited and buoyed by this new venture.
“This is a really good opportunity. I’m just glad I can share it with my husband,” Laci said. “This is in our blood.”