Lynette Rice
August 02, 2017 AT 11:00 AM EDT

The Hecks are ready to say goodbye.

EW has learned exclusively that The Middle — the ABC comedy about a middle-class family living in the small fictional town of Orson, Ind. — will end its nine-year run at the end of the 2017-18 season.

“We sat down with the cast at the end of last year,” explained executive producer Eileen Heisler to EW. “It was important to have a year to say goodbye. We want to be able to tell all the stories.”

Launched in 2009, the single-camera comedy stars Patricia Heaton as Frankie Heck, a working mom who, together with her aloof husband Mike (Neil Flynn), has three children named Axl (Charlie McDermott), Sue (Eden Sher), and Brick (Atticus Shaffer).

While the series always garnered good reviews, it never became the zeitgeist-cracker that was Modern Family, another ABC comedy that launched at the same time as The Middle. Its viewership never exceeded 9 million viewers. But the Middle showrunners never felt their show was overlooked.

“Some know about us, some don’t. We are at heart a midwestern show,” said executive producer DeAnn Heline. “If we can be underappreciated for nine years and be on the air, we’re lucky.”

“We feel the reception toward our show is positive and kind,” Heisler added. “We feel proud of what we’re doing. In its own way, the show has been recognized even though it’s not a ratings magnet. It’s very stalwart and steady.”

And though the new season hasn’t begun, they already know how it’s all going to end. “We started having an idea a couple of years ago and honed it more in the last year,” said Heline.

“It will be true to our show,” continued Heisler. “It’s an end that fans will like.”

The Middle returns for its ninth and final season on Tuesday, Oct. 3.

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