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Kevin Jacobs and his mother Johnnie shop the markdowns at Ultra Foods in Highland. The store will close Friday.

Last week for Ultra Foods in Highland

Contributed By:The 411 News

Store was the first Ultra, opening in 1981

This week will see the final days of the Ultra Discount Foods on Indianapolis Blvd. in Highland. It was the first Ultra to open in 1981, followed over the years by more than a dozen locations in northwest Indiana, Chicago and its suburbs.

The notice came mid-July the store would follow the fate of the other closed Ultras. Friday, September 1 is its last day. Only one Ultra, the Merrillville store will stay open.

Tuesday’s shoppers didn’t browse aisles, only one portable refrigerator unit and temporary shelving at the top of aisle endcaps remained. Salt pork and cheese balls were some of the refrigerated items offered. Pallets of Jiffy cornbread mix, lentils, chili beans and canned corn helped to fill out the marked down selections.

Kevin Jacobs, from East Chicago, has been a regular customer during the liquidation sale.

“I’ve bought batteries, snacks, energy bars and energy drinks. I’m waiting to see more prices come down. I missed out on the detergents.” He pointed to items that had started off at 50% off, then marked up to 70% off and now were 90% off.

Jacobs said he mainly comes to bring his mom, Johnnie Jacobs, who likes to browse the sales. Mrs. Jacobs said she has shopped at the store since its opening and will miss it.

During the decades of the 80’ and 90’s, shoppers flocked to Ultra’s concept of bulk grocery items and low prices, peeling them away from major grocery retailers like Jewel Foods and Dominick’s. Dominick’s closed all of its Indiana and Illinois stores. Jewel only maintains a few stores in northwest Indiana.

Ultra opened as a subsidiary of Strack & Van Til, an independent northwest Indiana grocer. The store’s successes led to a buyout by Central Grocers in 1997.

The trend that attracted customers to Ultra has waned, replaced by superstore retailers like Meijer and Walmart that offer shoppers choices other than groceries. They provide mostly everything, like clothing and electronics, a household needs.

Central Grocers inability to fend off those market forces led to a bankruptcy filing in May and a decision to sell off the Strack and Ultra stores.

Under the name Indiana Grocery Group, descendants of founding family members of the Strack & Van Til chain put up a successful bid to buy back 20 Strack’s stores and the Ultra store in Merrillville.

Story Posted:08/30/2017

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