Shoppers in the Hometown area woke up Tuesday morning without Agosti's Food Store as a possible destination for their grocery purchases.

The family-owned store, part of the landscape on Route 309 and the community in Rush Township and the Tamaqua area, closed its doors for the final time Monday night.

"It was a family decision," said Ermano Agosti, owner of the Hometown market. "It's sad. We've been here in the same location for 39 years. I feel like I've been shot in the heart."

Agosti said competition from larger retailers, particulary Walmart, which opened not far from his store two years ago, as well as the recessionary economic conditions, played a large role in their decision to close.

"Walmart takes away from a lot of small places," related Agosti. "Now, Turkey Hill is coming in across the street from us. We've been here a long time, but that's severe competition to deal with, with the way the economy is now."

Agosti and his wife, Diane, who reside in Lake Hauto, have five children who have also been involved in the family business, as well as many of their 15 grandchildren. The family not only operated the Hometown store but also Agosti's Food Stores in Mahanoy City and Weatherly.

Agosti said the other two stores will remain open, with his sons Robert and Steven operating the store in Weatherly and son James and daughter Patricia Confer running the Mahanoy City market. Son Joseph, who managed the Hometown store, will help out with the other two locations, his father said.

Ermano got his start in 1941 and for 21 years worked at the A&P Markets in Minersville and Tamaqua, including eight years as a manager.

In 1970, Agosti opened the Hometown IGA and remained there as he and his family owned and operated the store. When their distributer eventually decided to eliminate the IGA product line, the Agostis went with Supervalu and put their name on the store.

For almost four decades, Agosti's Food Store was the neighborhood market with the family touch. "We were like a convenience store and a grocery store in one," Agosti said.

The Agostis have also been community minded, donating to local charities. Ermano has been involved in organizations such as the Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce, the Knights of Columbus and the Tamaqua Lions Club, which named him a past grand marshal of Tamaqua's annual Halloween Parade.

"For 39 years, we've tried to be very good to the community. We donated to the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the fire company," Ermano said, mentioning just a few groups they've helped through the years.

The store closing also affects those who worked there, who are now without those jobs.

"Over the summer we employed about 35 people, between full and part-time, and between 15-20 after the summer," Ermano noted.

As for Ermano, 77, he said he will likely be retiring after 60 years in the grocery business, although stepping away won't be easy.

"It's time to quit," he stated. "I guess I'll take it easy and try to help them out where I can."