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Tyndall, Scotland grocery stores sold

TYNDALL -- Sometimes change happens fast.

Gemar's Market in Tyndall closed at noon Saturday and reopened at 9 a.m. Sunday as Buche Foods.

The transition is part of a two-store deal inked between Greg Gemar, of Scotland, and fourth-generation grocer R.F. Buche, of Wagner -- two men with a family history of food service to rural communities.

Buche, president of the GF Buche Company, recalled the agreement as a five-day whirlwind transaction this past June that ended with the sale of the Gemar grocery store in not only Tyndall, but also Scotland.

"Greg had another buyer on the line and we had to make a quick decision," Buche recalled. "The only opportunity we had was to buy both stores."

Gemar, 64, said he and wife JoAnn, 62, decided that, after 35 years in the grocery business, it was time to retire.

Gemar said he subscribes to the adage that "the best time to sell is when you've got a buyer."

"I still like what I do," Gemar said, "but it was time to make a change."

The Tyndall deal closed Saturday, and the Scotland acquisition will close on Jan. 18. The selling prices were not disclosed.

Buche, who in March was elected to the board of directors of the National Grocers Association, said he isn't worried about the future viability of small-town grocery stores.

"It's been our niche," he said. "We've done really well in towns this size with grocery stores in Gregory, Tripp, Wagner and Mission,"

Additionally, the firm operates four Gus Stop convenience stores in Lake Andes, Mission, White River and Wagner, as well as a pay-at-the-pump location in Mission.

The Gus Stops are named for "Gus" Buche, who founded Buche Foods in Lake Andes in 1905 and grew the chain to 21 stores before the Great Depression intervened.

"Great-grandpa Gus believed in keeping money in local banks, and when the Depression hit, he lost all his money and many of his stores," Buche said.

The episode was merely a bump in the road for Gus Buche, who went on to serve as a state senator in the mid-1930s and was later elected to the South Dakota Hall of Fame.

R.F. Buche said multiple store locations will allow his company to buy more efficiently from grocery wholesaler Affiliated Foods Midwest, and there are plans for future expansion. The company has 200 employees.

The Tyndall store will be either remodeled or expanded in 2014, Buche said.

"We decided it didn't make a lot of sense to rip up the store prior to hunting seasons and disrupt customers."

Greg Gemar said he will miss his customers.

"Many of our customers have never known anything but Gemar's Market," he said. "We feel fortunate to have had such faithful customers and good employees."

Gemar, one of seven children, was raised in Scotland. His father opened the store in 1949, the year after Greg was born. He purchased the store from his father in 1979 and built a new Scotland store in 1986. He purchased the Tyndall store in 2000.

His brother, Charles "Sam" Gemar, who now lives in Wichita, Kan., gained fame as an astronaut on several space shuttle voyages in the early 1990s

Greg Gemar said the demands of running a grocery store for 35 years have left little time for he and his wife to visit relatives or their own children and grandchildren.

He's convinced selling his stores was the right move.

"R.F. Buche was the right buyer. He has a long history serving communities like Tyndall and Scotland," Gemar said.

Gemar and his wife plan to stay in Scotland, enjoy their retirement, and take care of daily chores on their own schedule.

"I'm still going to mow my yard," he said, "but not on Sunday afternoon."