The doors have closed for good at a Co-op that has been at the centre of the community of Sussex, N.B. for 40 years.

The Sussex store is the oldest Co-op in Canada, dating back 170 years, and customers say they are sad to see it go.

“It’s the last day and I thought I would make a trip in here the last day,” said member Elizabeth Forsythe on Tuesday. “I feel really bad about this. It’s too bad it couldn’t be made a go of.”

A vote earlier this spring determined that Co-op Atlantic would get out of the retail, grocery and gas business, and the company obtained an order from the court under its Creditors Arrangement Act last month. The liquidation of assets began on July 7.

Most of the stores closing are corporately-owned, but the one is Sussex is one of the few privately-owned stores going out of business.

“I was to the annual general meeting and I knew that they were approximately half a million dollars in arrears from the previous year,” said Sussex Mayor Marc Thorne.

“Since 1971 we’ve had the grocery component of the Co-op. They’re part of the fabric of this community. They’ve always run sort of a more modest retail outlet, but nevertheless, much appreciated.”

Sobeys was offering debt relief to stores that close and the company said in a statement that it would have gone bankrupt without the debt relief.

“It’s bad, especially for Sussex,” said member Gamil Khalil. “We need more business but we lose business now. We hope somebody can replace it.”

Sobeys is also buying a lot of the store’s equipment. The board of directors maintains that by closing the Sussex store, their farm store can stay open.

But Forsythe says the Sussex Co-op was special and will be missed.

“It was friendly. The staff, everyone knew you, and you knew the staff and if you needed something they knew where to get it,” she said. “It felt like you were coming home when you were coming in here.”

With files from CTV Atlantic's Jonathan MacInnis