MANCHESTER - This Saturday, April 13, Al Ducci's Italian Pantry will close their doors after 22 years in the community.

Nancy Diafario, co-owner of Al Ducci's, said she and Al had difficulty paying the mortgage and that bank informed them last month that they would be foreclosing on the property.

Al Ducci's began seeing signs of the down economy some time ago, but Diafario said it wasn't until last winter that they realized the business could be in peril if they had another slow winter.

"The holidays came and went and it just seemed like our sales were down by a good 30 percent," said Diafario. "It's disheartening after working for 22 years. We would have liked to hand it off to someone who could really take it to the next level."

After the recession hit, Diafario said that things were okay for a while, but gradually the business began to lose their customer base Having been a mainstay in the community for more than two decades, the business was also one of the more attractive locales in the recently revitalized Historic Depot District.

"We really saw them as an anchor business along with Garden Arts and Gander Gallery, which I think has also closed in the last couple of months. So, we always hate for that kind of thing to happen," said Executive Director of the Manchester and the Mountains Regional Chamber of Commerce Berta Maginniss. "The town has invested a fair amount of money in the parking lot just opposite Al Ducci's, which gave that whole area a lift So, we hope this will be just a short vacancy and something else will come in because we do think it's an important part of town to develop."

According to Diafario, when the business first opened in January of 1991 the business landscape of the community was very different.

"Al decided to start the business because when he moved up here there was absolutely no Italian food at all," she said. "There was nothing; and being an Italian he wanted to then provide fresh mozzarella because his family had a cheese business. So, he decided he would open up a small market."

Throughout the years, Diafario said that the market developed a reputation for having "the best of everything" and that people would wait on line, if necessary, because they knew the wait would be worth it.

More recently, Al Ducci's opened up a restaurant next door to the market - hoping the business would yield additional revenue. But the venture became too expensive to operate and they decided to close the restaurant in February, Diafario said.

Prior to that the business was expanded to include fresh made pizza with fresh mozzarella.

Not only did the couple own and operate the Italian Pantry for years, but they also performed catering services - something Diafario was a great pleasure for both she and Al.

"We were always a presence on people's tables come the holidays and that's something I will cherish forever because people let us into their lives and loved us and we loved them back," Diafario said. "We really have a lot of good relationships with a lot of our customers. We will be missed and we will miss the people."