The last grocery store and gas station on Park Point, and the only spot to grab coffee, pick up the latest copy of the Park Point Breeze and swap gossip, may be closing for good.
Richard Gajewski, the owner of the Bay Side Market at 1901 Minnesota Ave. for the past 37 years, is closing his shop next month if no buyer is found.
For the past couple of years, Gajewski has been searching for a buyer for the store. While a few people have stopped to talk, no offers have come, he said.
"It is my life, and I love it," he said of the store. His wife, Melinda, four children and eight grandchildren also worked for the store at different times. "I never considered this my store. I considered this Park Point's store and I was just running it for them."
The decision to finally close and quit working 80-hour weeks came after Gajewski, 69, suffered a recent heart attack. Next spring he and his wife intend to move to Florida.
He also blamed the economic downturn, escalating real estate taxes and credit card fees and the competitive pricing of large chain grocery stores for causing his profits to evaporate.
If no one buys the business, however, it won't just mean residents must cross the bridge for a gallon of milk, but the end of an era for the Gajewski family in Duluth's grocery store business.
While growing up, Richard Gajewski helped his father, Ed, run Community Market grocery store in Lakeside.
During his later years, Ed Gajewski served as the butcher at his son's store on Park Point.
Walt Pietrowski still remembers the elder Gajewski in his 80s and early 90s carrying groceries out for the "elderly" people who sometimes were 10 or 20 years his junior.
"He always wanted to help out the old ladies. He never considered himself old," Pietrowski said.
That family atmosphere is a hallmark of the store, Pietrowski said.
"It's always been a good store and a friendly store and convenient store," he said.
And, above all, they have great meats, customers said.
"They have a wonderful meat counter," said Marcia Hales, who has lived on Park Point for nearly three decades. "They have a variety of everything."
While the pork and Polish sausage are perhaps the store's biggest claims to fame, it's the people who set the place apart, customers said.
A steady stream of students had part-time positions at the grocery store and played on hockey and baseball teams sponsored by the Bay Side Market.
Tom Mackay, the former Vista Fleet Captain and lifelong Park Point resident, remembers being handed a boning knife directly from the meat counter, when he told the younger Gajewski he had just bought a house.
"'Here. Here's you're house warming gift,'" Mackay said Gajewski told him as he handed him a knife.
"I don't remember if he even cleaned it off," Mackay said, chuckling now at the gift.
After hearing the news about the store, Mackay dropped by like he does nearly every day, this time for some sausage.
Right after Mackay walked in, the UPS man dropped off a package at the store for a neighbor whowasn't home.
"I personally feel it's going to be a great loss to our community," Pietrowski said.