Clearwater food store closes its doors
By CHRISTINA K. COSDON
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 10, 2001
CLEARWATER -- Val's Finer Foods, a meat and gourmet foods business that has drawn customers from across the state to Clearwater for more than 30 years, has closed its doors.
The business, established by the Stahle family of Clearwater, had a reputation for high quality, variety and customer service. The store specialized in items not available in chain stores, such as hormone- and antibiotic-free beef, and provided personal service.
Those features were what attracted Anthony Delio to the business at 1736 Drew St. He bought it through a business broker a year ago this month for $400,000.
Several months later, Delio, who had been a chef for 20 years in New Jersey, said in an interview that "with its specialty items, fine wines and all-natural meats, it's a unique business." At that time, he said he intended to keep the staff of 10 employees and planned to expand the catering part of the business.
But something went wrong, and Delio closed the business about a month ago. Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.
Mark Stahle, whose father started Val's, said he sold the business because he wanted to have more time with his family and, after running the business for 20 years, "it was time," he said.
Stahle said he still owns the two buildings the business occupied -- a 3,800-square-foot storefront and an 1,800-square-foot storage and office building behind it. He said he now plans to sell the buildings.
He said he hadn't talked with Delio but learned from others that he wasn't making the profits he expected, closed the business and returned with his family to New Jersey.
Some former Val's customers have recently discovered Jim's Meat Market in Belleair Bluffs, a business started 31 years ago by Jim Haumchild and still owned and operated by his wife, Helen, and their children.
"We're getting a few customers from Val's as they find out we're here," said the son, Jim Haumchild, who has worked 21 years in the family business.
Operating a small business isn't easy, particularly with so many supermarkets around, he said.
"It's a tough business, no doubt about that," Haumchild said. "You have to have a good product, be honest with your customers and hang in there with it. You do eat good, that's one thing."
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