I don’t have insider information on Tom Thumb’s possible interest in the LH Town Center, but as a loyal Tom Thumb shopper I’ve seen one tell-tale sign that something is amiss at the Skillman/LBJ store: a recent decline in quality and customer service. It seems like stores fall apart right before they close, and over the past month or so the red flag of a drop in reinvestment in that store has become visible.

First, you can never find a shopping cart. Lots of grocery stores run short of carts on busy Saturdays, but even on weekday mornings, they’re out. On several occasions lately, I’ve picked up food – sour cream, steaks, bread – and found them at or past their expiration date. When reaching for Oscar Meyer bacon, I realized there was one packet in the cooler and, behind it, black Styrofoam meat trays propping it up. I found the same thing behind other brands – an apparent attempt to make the meat cooler appear well-stocked.

It’s rare, anymore, to run into someone I know there. When I duck into the Old Town store (Lovers Lane and Greenville Avenue), I now see people I know from LH ducking their heads in shame at betraying LH retail.

When I first began shopping at the Skillman/LBJ Tom Thumb, there was always at least one manager visible, greeting me – not by name, but with a knowing nod recognizing me as a frequent basket-filler. Now, managers seem scarce and it’s rare to find a checkout line that isn’t express-only. Perhaps management is cutting back due to a down economy or troubles at that center, but if Keri’s sources are right, it makes sense not to reinvest in a sinking (or relocating) ship.