The Clyde's Market in Portal will soon do a vanishing act, but should reappear over the next four months as an all-new store with a full-size deli and state-of-the-art gas pumps.
A note on the door informs customers that Sunday will be the last business day until the transformation is complete. Greg Woolard, CEO of the Glennville-based convenience store chain named for his father, said the building is slated to be torn down beginning the first week of April. He hopes the new store will open in August.
"Plans change, but that's the plan," Woolard said, being a realist about construction and weather.
The new store will be slightly larger than the old one, Woolard said. It will also have three gas pumps instead of the current two. But the main point, he said, is to upgrade the building.
The owners considered remodeling, but decided total replacement would be better because of the condition of the building with its electrical system and plumbing.
"It's not really the size that we're building to gain," Woolard said. "We can upgrade it to everything that's modern, get food service in there that Portal needs and Highway 80 needs. We're looking forward to getting that up there. I think that will be well received in the community."
Nobody was arguing with that at the store Monday morning.
Regulars look forward
"I'll miss this one, but I would like to see a better place, and have some food in here," said Larry Floyd Harrison, 55, a regular customer.
Tammy Davis, 44, who has lived in Portal 15 years, shops at Clyde's daily. She and her husband order pizzas there at least once a week and are looking forward to the deli, she said.
Currently, the store serves fresh-baked Hunt Brothers Pizza. A few other items are sold from a small deli cabinet, including sausage dogs, hamburgers and chicken sandwiches.
But the cooking has been limited by having to use a pizza oven for everything, Woolard said. In addition to pizza ovens, the new store will have fryers and a "combi" oven, which combines the functions of a convection oven and regular oven.
"We'll have a full breakfast: biscuits ..., sausages, eggs, ham, bacon ..., grits, a full line," Woolard said.
For meals later in the day, expect chicken strips and bone-in fried chicken, plus pork chops or shrimp some days and a variety of vegetables. The deli service will be much like that at the Clyde's Market in Brooklet.
The new store's design also will be somewhat similar to the one in Brooklet, with the deli on the left and the coolers and grocery aisles on the right, Woolard said.
Other new features include a "beer cave" with coolers, a new soda fountain installation and a better coffee setup, he said.
The Portal store has been part of his family's chain for about 25 years, Woolard said. He did not know the age of the building.
A description attached to a county tax map shows 1987 as the construction year. Robert Brack, 62, a Banks Dairy Road resident visiting the Clyde's Market on Monday, recalled that Roy Johnson built it to replace an earlier store on the same corner.
"I've been coming to this corner since I was 6 years old," Brack said.
He and other frequent customers will have to make other arrangements for a few months. Will Brack miss it?
"Not if they're going to put me a new one in," he said. "I'll miss it this summer."
Now 43 stores, plus ...
Clyde Woolard, who is now retired, founded the company with his first store in Glennville in 1969. Then employed by his brother-in-law, Carl Jones, founder of the Flash Foods chain, as manager of a store in Waycross, Woolard drove up U.S. Highway 301 and selected Glennville as a town that needed a convenience store.
His stores previously operated under the Flash Foods name, but became Clyde's Markets about a decade ago.
Greg Woolard's brother, Mac, is CEO of Woodland Oil Inc., a fuel distributor that owns the land and buildings leased by a few of the Clyde's Markets, including the Portal store.
Today, Clyde's Markets operates 43 convenience stores, plus three Rusty Pig barbecue restaurants and one Baldinos Giant Jersey Subs franchise, in 15 counties of southeastern Georgia. The Baldino's opened in January inside an existing Clyde's Market in Richmond Hill. The third Rusty Pig, in Hinesville, opened less than two weeks ago. The others are in Glennville and Rincon.
The company plans to build a Clyde's store at a new location, but Greg Woolard said he doesn't know whether this will happen this year or next. For 2015, his plate is full.
"We're got two more Rusty Pigs we want to do this year, and a Baldinos and two store rebuilds, which are Portal and Midway," he said.
The company is looking for a place for a Baldino's in the Statesboro market.
During the store replacement, Clyde's Market employees in Portal are being reassigned to other stores. Manager Ashley Jackson said she is going to the Cobbtown store, which has a full deli, to learn to operate one.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.