INTERCOURSE, Pa. (AP) — Even today, the movie "Witness" still draws tourists to the W.L. Zimmerman & Sons grocery store in Intercourse.
The 19th-century building at 3601 Old Philadelphia Pike appears in several scenes in the hit 1985 crime drama, particularly one in which Harrison Ford makes a crucial call from a phone booth on the store's porch.
International visitors have an especial fondness for the film, said Gordon Shuit, who owns Carriage Corner Bed & Breakfast with his wife, Gwen.
"They look forward to getting up on that porch and having their pictures taken by the soda machine," he said.
But being a well-loved location from a famous movie is one thing. Prospering as a local grocery in today's hyper-competitive era is another.
Over the past few years, sales declined to the point where "there wasn't enough margin to work with any more," owner Kristine Shirk said.
Customers today simply have many other places to shop for food, Shirk told the Intelligencer Journal/New Era.
So she made the difficult decision to close. The mid-March announcement was followed by a clearance sale, and the grocery shut down for good on Friday.
W.L. Zimmerman & Sons' other enterprises remain in operation and are doing well, Shirk said. They include the hardware store down the street at 3615 Old Philadelphia Pike and a fuel delivery service.
"Ultimately, closing the grocery store will make Zimmerman's even stronger, and will allow me to focus on the hardware and the fuel business," Shirk wrote in an online letter to customers.
The closure resulted in the layoff of her husband, John, who was a full-time employee, and eight part-time workers, including her daughter, Kate, she said.
The company now has about 30 employees, she said.
Frank Howe, chairman of the Leacock Township board of supervisors, said he often shopped at Zimmerman's.
"It was always handy to go there," he said. "It's going to leave a void, obviously."
Indeed, the building is where the Zimmerman family business began more than a century ago. "Established 1909," the signpost outside proclaims.
Zimmerman's "has been in continuous operation longer than any other store in Intercourse," according to a company history.
The Zimmermans settled in the region in the early 1700s, the history says. The store was started because Ezra Zimmerman's son, Willis, "did not want to be a farmer," the history says.
The Zimmermans purchased the building from I.N. Diller, who built it in the early 1890s. It has two stories of about 4,500 square feet each, according to county property records.
Shirk is the fifth Zimmerman generation in the business. Her father and uncle, Jim and Bill Zimmerman, brought her into the firm in the mid-1990s, and she took over as sole owner in 2012, she said.
For many decades, the grocery operated as a general store. Housewares and other items were for sale on the second floor, Shirk said.
The family's hardware store opened in 1928 in a former tobacco warehouse "two doors west," she said.
In the mid-2000s, the Zimmermans built a large modern building for the hardware store. They relocated the grocery's second floor inventory to the new location, too.
The tobacco warehouse now houses E. Braun Farm Tables, a company that makes furniture from reclaimed wood.
Shirk was 14 in 1984, when "Witness" was filmed.
"I got to meet Harrison Ford and shake his hand," she said. "He came across as down-to-earth."
As for the grocery building and its well-known porch and phone booth, Shirk said she plans to lease the property and is seeking a tenant.
"I'm hoping someone will come forward," she said.
Information from: Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era , http://lancasteronline.com