Jan. 24–New to Liberty City from Arkansas in 1995, Anita Ables went two weeks without knowing the former Foodland was on Old Highway 135 until one night she turned left instead of right.
This March, Ables plans to open the new Pioneer Market in the same location she and her husband first stumbled upon 23 years ago when they turned a different direction.
“That was an awesome grocery store back then,” she said of Foodland. The quality declined over the years, though, as she found expired food on the shelves at times.
People started approaching her to either purchase Foodland or open her own grocery store. Resiidents of the Liberty City area do not want to have to drive to Kilgore or Gladewater for their groceries, she said. Even though she lives about 10 miles from Kilgore, she does not want to have to drive to either neighboring city to get groceries after a full day of work.
“We need our grocery store,” she said.
When she saw the trajectory of Foodland, she approached the owners about purchasing the business.
The price was too high then, and she just forgot about it for about a year.
“Then they came to me and wanted to know if I was still interested, and I was like, ‘Heck yeah,'” Ables said. “I know absolutely nothing about a grocery store, but I just know the community, the people out here and all the talk about how Sabine needs a grocery store. This can be an awesome grocery store.”
Ables announced her acquisition of Foodland on Facebook in early November, and in addition to construction, has been finishing the permitting process and contacting the different food companies with which Foodland had contracts to get those established.
The process of turning Foodland into Pioneer Market has involved a lot of construction, though, as the store has been gutted to start fresh. This includes taking out the coolers in the Foodland meat market, Ables said.
“You have to have a good meat market, and you have to have some produce and fruit,” she said, noting her focus in the redesign is the meat market. “The meat market brings people in.”
At first the plan was to open in December, but the construction has pushed the opening date goal to early- to mid-March.
“We’re so excited, and I just know it’s going to be awesome,” Ables said.
The market is not the only new business the Ableses are opening in Liberty City. Construction is continuing on Pioneer Hardware at the corner of Hwy. 135 and FM 1252, across from the EZ Mart.
The Ables’ daughter, Chelsie Paz, will operate the hardware store, while the family has already found someone to run Pioneer Market.
Ables, along with her husband and three grown children, also operate about 250 trucks through Tim Ables Trucking and another 50 to 60 trucks with Southern Transport.
“I’ll be in and out of all of it,” Ables said, noting she typically works Monday through Wednesday at Tim Ables Trucking.
Their children came up with the name ‘Pioneer’ seven years ago when the long-time trucking family had the idea to open a truck stop and travel plaza on Interstate 20 near Van. Their plans changed, though, when they were told the proposed location was too close to other truck stops. For about five years, they forgot about opening the new company and concentrated on their trucking lines.
Ables said she does not know where her children came up with the name Pioneer Travel Plaza, but when they decided to open a hardware store and grocery store, the kids agreed to just transfer the name to their new endeavors, naming them each Pioneer Market and Pioneer Hardware.
“I’m just looking forward to Sabine having a decent grocery store again… Everyone’s just so excited about getting the grocery store back,” she said. “I’m just ready to get it open.”
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