The convenience store-slash-sandwich shop has long been a place to pick up small necessities without having to make a trip to the grocery store, a much-appreciated amenity for the close-knit neighborhood. Sandwiches are named for neighborhood streets (we're partial to the Harwood), Christmas carolers gather every year to sing on the corner of Amelia and Cathcart, and owner Dev Rai often played his Nepalese flute in the store.
It has been such a part of the neighborhood fabric that customers pooled money to have it repainted in 2016, when owners Dev and Arati Rai weren't able to afford to do it.
The Rais posted this message to customers on their Facebook page last night:
With a heavy heart, as we are in deep financial crisis and out of luck and all our resources, I am writing this post to let you know that we are closing the Handy Pantry at the end of this month. We tried very hard until the last moment but now we cannot hang on anymore as the hole gets deeper and deeper by the day. This was our home away from home for the last seventeen years in this great Lake Eola Heights and we would not have made this far if it was not for our wonderful neighbors and their love and support. We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts. We will miss you all!! Dev and Arati
The Rais have owned the store for about 17 years, but the Handy Pantry has been operating since the 1920s. On the Lake Eola Heights Historic District Facebook page, George David Ballentine commented, "Believe it or not, that little store has been here back when my mother grew up right here in this same house [on Amelia Street], where my wife and I have lived since August of 1970. I recall that my mother mentioned that her mother regularly walked down to pick up her groceries there."
First Colonial Lanes, then Wally's, now Handy Pantry. If our OG establishments keep dropping like this, we're all going to end up barricaded in gated neighborhoods receiving Amazon deliveries via drone. Go spend money, in person, at an independently owned business this weekend!
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