Hawthorne store closes after 36 years

The couple who owns Kellie's Minit Stop will retire in early February

Edna Hogue, right, shares a laugh with customer Darryle Sessions, left, at Kellie's Minit Stop in Hawthorne, Florida on Wednesday. After 36 years of selling gas, hand-dipped ice cream, live bait and barbecued food, the Hogue's will be retiring.

Aaron Daye/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, January 21, 2011 at 12:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 21, 2011 at 10:32 p.m.

Edna and Roy Hogue have been greeting locals and travelers at Kellie's Minit Stop convenience store and gas station on U.S. 301 in Hawthorne since 1975.

They've seen customers who were kids when they first came in now bring their children in for a scoop of DeConna hand-dipped ice cream.

They've seen travelers driving from New York to Tampa who would stop there because of the clean store and bathrooms.

But age and dwindling business have caught up to the Hogues, who plan to close during the first week of February to retire — 36 years to the month after opening.

Roy, 69, said they were supposed to replace their gasoline tanks with double-walled tanks last year, but he figured it would take another 10 years to make up the $170,000 expense, "so I thought it was a good time to hang it up."

They dropped Texaco gas a year ago, but Edna, 68, wanted something to do so they kept the store open. Roy said he finally put his foot down. Without gas, sales of drinks, candy, live bait, cigarettes, ice cream, phone cards and other merchandise dropped 40 percent.

The economy was already hurting business since many customers are out of work, Roy said. Then state and federal taxes added another $1.68 tax to a pack of cigarettes.

"It made it bad from a retail standpoint, but the air's a whole lot better," Roy said.

The Hogues originally opened a Kellie's — named for their eldest daughter, who is now an attorney in Birmingham, Ala. — in Archer in 1970. Since the city allowed alcohol sales after 1 p.m. and Alachua County did not, Roy said they had college kids lined up for beer after 1 p.m.

They moved to Hawthorne in 1975, in time to be the first station in the county to offer self-serve gas.

At first, Kellie's was also a grocery store with a meat department and produce. But they converted to a convenience store after a Miller's Supermarket — later Hitchcock's — opened across the highway in the early 1980s.

"It turned out to be more lucrative and less work," Roy said.

Looking back, he said they've had a lot of good customers and good friends over the years.

Customer Lora Taylor, who lives nearby, said they are like family.

"They are very personable and helpful to everyone," she said.

Edna said it was a hard decision to close.

"I guess it's time for us to retire," she said. "Our kids think it's time."

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