End of an era: Lonnie Pruitt spends his last day at Redi-Mart

Published 6:00 pm Wednesday, June 5, 2024

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For the last 44 years, Lonnie Pruitt has owned and operated the RedHead Redi-Mart in Crab Orchard. On Friday, that era came to an end as he closed the store for the last time. 

Pruitt announced his retirement earlier that week and lowered gas prices for all customers to say ‘thank you’ for supporting the business for the last four decades. 

On Friday, Pruitt held a customer appreciation and retirement party and invited the entire community to the store for free hotdogs and hamburgers. Many came to see Pruitt and wished him the best in retirement. 

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Lincoln County Judge-Executive Woods Adams read a proclamation declaring May 31, 2024 as Lonnie Pruitt Day in Lincoln County. 

The proclamation recognized Pruitt, a lifelong citizen of Crab Orchard, for serving the communities of Lincoln, Garrard and Rockcastle Counties with the operation of Redi-Mart for 44 years, and for serving District 2 of Lincoln County as magistrate for two terms. 

The proclamation also recognized Pruitt’s time serving as a board member for the Kentucky Magistrates and Commissioners Association and as a Deacon of Watts Chapel Baptist Church for many years. 

“Mr. Pruitt has donated his time and resources to numerous civic groups and organizations charged with improving the well-being of so many in this community,” Adams said. 

The City of Crab Orchard also presented Pruitt with a plaque of recognition for his service to the community. 

“You have been a big asset to this city and all of the citizens,” said Crab Orchard Commissioner Bill Dyehouse. “You have helped a lot of young people, you’ve given them work here, and the City of Crab Orchard appreciates you. You’ve done a great job. Congratulations on your retirement.” 

“If I had known y’all were going to be this nice, I might’ve stayed another six years,” Pruitt laughed. “We really do appreciate y’all.”

Pruitt said it’s bittersweet but he is looking forward to retirement and plans to spend more time relaxing with family and playing golf. Sonny Patel will now own and operate the store. 

“Running the store has a certain amount of stress that goes with it,” he said. 

He said he’s getting older and has to plan for that future now, but he will miss it. 

“It’s been good. The people of Crab Orchard have been good to me. I’ve been able to help a lot of young people,” Pruitt said. 

In 1975, Pruitt started pumping gas in Crab Orchard. 

“I pumped gas for five years and did real good, then RedHead said let’s put a store in,’” Pruitt said. “I said ‘I don’t know anything about running a store’ and he said ‘well you didn’t know anything about pumping gas but you did pretty good’ so the store has been here since 1980.” 

To bring the 44 years full circle, Pruitt’s very first customer, Eddie Smith, came to the store to be the very last customer Friday night. 

“Eddie Smith was my first customer – he helped me put some stuff on the shelves. He bought an RC Cola and a MoonPie. I said ‘well let me give that to you’ and he said ‘no, I want to be your first customer,’” Pruitt said. 

Pruitt said the customers were his favorite part of the business. 

“Dealing with the people and watching the kids grow up,” he said. “I tell people you can have everything in life but if you ain’t got nobody to share it with, you really ain’t got nothing.”