Business

Marshall Grain closing 70-year-old east Fort Worth store

Marshall Grain, which has been operating on East Lancaster Avenue in Fort Wiorth for 70 years, will close next month.
Marshall Grain, which has been operating on East Lancaster Avenue in Fort Wiorth for 70 years, will close next month. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

The owners of Marshall Grain Co. are closing the original feed and garden store on East Lancaster Avenue at the end of June after 70 years in Fort Worth.

Joyce and Jim Connelley, who bought the business 11 years ago, cited sinking sales at the location, 2224 E. Lancaster Ave., for the closure. A Grapevine store that they opened in 2009 will remain open.

The Connelleys said business has suffered over the past five years because of problems in the surrounding neighborhood east of downtown, which they say has been in decline for years, even before they bought the business.

Operating within a mile of two homeless shelters, with nearby panhandlers, prostitutes and drug addicts on East Lancaster, has taken a toll, they said. Discounting merchandise and reducing overhead were not enough to stem the tide.

“We do have some very loyal customers,” Joyce Connelley said. “It was not an easy decision to come to. We spent years trying to avoid it. Our store is regularly broken into and shoplifted by the neighborhood’s homeless population. It’s a shame.”

Joyce Connelley said she and her husband have met many times with city staff members and Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray, whose district includes East Lancaster Avenue, and were assured that revitalization would take place.

“It never happened,” Joyce Connelley said. “I was very active along with other business owners for some time. We went to council meetings and had private meetings. We kept requesting things get done. Basically, everything was just ignored.

“They flat out told us we needed to find a way to deal with it ourselves,” she said. “We were told the shelters were not going to move.”

The store, scheduled to close on June 30, has started a closeout sale.

Gray said she is “at a loss” for the Connelleys’ statements about the neighborhood and said the city has “provided lots of resources” to them. The city is not to blame, she said, adding that there many other locations in Fort Worth where they could move.

“I hate that they are leaving,” Gray said, but added, “Every time Joyce has called our office, we have accommodated every one of her issues. Every meeting with her has always been a gripe session. It’s never anything that’s ever productive. I’m not going to get into a back and forth. I’m not feeding into this.”

Marshall Grain was founded in 1946 by C.B. Marshall. His son, Jim Marshall, who still owns the building, sold the company to the Connelleys, who moved to North Texas in late 2004. Jim Connelley worked in mail-order publishing and Silicon Valley’s high-tech arena.

The City Council of Fort Worth has refused to take the necessary steps to reverse the overall decline of this historic neighborhood, to the detriment of businesses and homeowners.

Jim Connelley, Marshall Grain’s owner

“The City Council of Fort Worth has refused to take the necessary steps to reverse the overall decline of this historic neighborhood, to the detriment of businesses and homeowners,” Jim Connelley said. “Fewer and fewer people are willing to make the trek to East Lancaster.”

According to the city’s Open Portal website, 27 criminal offenses have been recorded since the first of February between the 2200 block and the 2500 block of East Lancaster Avenue, including several trespassing, robbery and drug-related cases.

Marshall Grain sells organic gardening and pet supplies and will expand its landscape services division at the Grapevine location, the owners said.

“We appreciate the historic role that the Marshall Grain Co. has played in the community, which goes back as far as 1914. But all businesses must change with the times to remain viable,” Jim Connelley said.

Joyce Connelley said they have four years remaining on a lease with Jim Marshall. They said they will try to sublease the property.

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