Dwight Delivered From Food Desert

Thomas MacMillan Photo With no supermarket in the neighborhood, Frank Douglass’ grandkids were eating junk food from the corner store. With a new Stop & Shop on Whalley Avenue Friday, he said, his 7-year-old grandson Jahsir can go back to eating carrots like he’s “Bugs Bunny’s little brother.”

Douglass, a Democratic committee co-chair in Ward 2, made his comments in the fully stocked dairy section of a brand new Stop & Shop supermarket on Whalley Avenue, where he was among scores of people who turned out for an invitation-only sneak peek at the store, before its 6 a.m. grand opening Friday.

The opening comes one year after Shaw’s supermarket shut its doors at the same location, leaving over 100 people without jobs and turning the greater Dwight area into a “food desert.”

With the help of other community organizations, the retail complex’s landlord, the Greater Dwight Development Corporation, was able to lure Stop & Shop to take over the vacant space. The new tenants have already won plaudits by hiring 150 new employees from New Haven, including many former Shaw’s workers. On Thursday evening, the store opened its doors to people who live nearby, those who have been most affected by the year-long absence of a supermarket.

The gleaming new store was stocked the to the brim with neatly stacked fresh produce and aisle after aisle of untouched dry goods, including all varieties of Jell-O and pudding.

Near aisle four, the Vincent Paul Trio filled the air with the smooth sounds of supermarket jazz.

Tables throughout the store offered sliced ham, hot dogs, cheeses, fried chicken, and onion rings, among other delicacies. Lt. Ray Hassett helped himself to two cups of pomegranate juice.

One of the tables was manned by Fallon Pauls and Sharee Ladson, who were both recently hired on as cashiers. They also live in the area and said they were “heartbroken” when Shaw’s closed, leaving neighbors without an easy source of groceries.

“I was one of those people,” Pauls said. She had to borrow a car or hire a cab to take her out to West Haven to get to a supermarket, she said. “This is the greatest thing they could have did in the area.”

Pauls served up some macaroni and cheese to Connie Ellison, Douglass’ wife, who pronounced herself the happiest person in the store.

She said she could not believe how quickly the supermarket came together. It seemed like she just read about Stop & Shop taking over, “and look! I’m standing in a Stop & Shop!” she said.

“This is a godsend,” said Douglass. He said his grandchildren have been eating a lot of “low-grade crap. ... Now we’ve got some produce, man!”

Sheila Masterson, head of the Whalley Avenue Special Services District, tried out a touch-screen grocery finder with her 2-year-old friend Jolee. She predicted Stop & Shop is here for good and will not suffer the same fate as Shaw’s, which was a victim of financial trouble at its parent company, Supervalu. The demand is there to keep a supermarket thriving, she said. Shaw’s was number two in sales in Connecticut when it was open, she said.

Many people commented approvingly that the store seems bigger than Shaw’s did. Anne Demchak, the new store manager, said the aisles are wider. She said the store also has a new floor and all new deli cases.

Asked about the lack of bike racks outside, she said two racks will be installed shortly.

Kosher Cookies

Neighborhood activist Eli Greer was on hand to show off the store’s kosher bakery. His organization, Vaad HaKashrus Of New Haven, has been working closely with Stop & Shop for several weeks to certify the bakery as kosher. All the ovens, trays, sinks, and equipment have been properly prepared and steam cleaned, he said. All the ingredients and products have been inspected.

All the bakery’s kosher products are clearly labeled, he pointed out, picking up a package of lemon cranberry scones. The labels indicate what kind of kosher category the food fits into, such as “pas yisroel.” That means “baked in an oven lit by a Jew,” Greer said. He pointed out the labels on the oven switches back in the bakery, certifying that a Jew had “lit” them. If the power ever goes out, and the ovens need to be turned back on, Stop & Shop will have to call up Greer and his colleagues, he said.

Greer said the kosher bakery will attract more Jewish shoppers to the store; a growing Orthdox community lives nearby in the Edgewood and Beaver Hills neighborhoods. Stop & Shop workers have “gone out of their way to accommodate us,” Greer said. He said his organization charges a “de minimis” fee for its kosher certification services.

Ribbons, Tomatoes, Elks

Shortly after 6 p.m., the invited guests gathered in the front of the store for an official ribbon-cutting ceremony. It was preceded by remarks from Robin Golden, the Yale law professor who headed up a group of students who worked on the Stop & Shop deal alongside the Greater Dwight Development Corporation. A representative of People’s United Bank spoke about the opening of a new branch in the store, and donated $1,000 to a local soup kitchen.

Mayor John DeStefano saluted the efforts of the community in bringing in Stop & Shop.

“Is this a city that will accept no for an answer?” he asked

“No!” came the chorused response.

After Anne Demchak received a citation from the Board of Aldermen and cut the ceremonial purple ribbon, a group of activists button-holed Connecticut Stop & Shop President Ron Onorato. They asked him if he will support Florida tomato pickers in their fight to earn 1 cent more per pound of tomatoes picked.

Megan Fountain, one of the activists, later said Onorato told them he would have an answer in a week. “He’s done the right thing for workers here” by hiring locally, she said. “So I expect he’ll be an advocate for the tomato workers as well.”

As the festivities wound down, several members of the local chapter of the Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks of the Worlds rested on a display of Brawny paper towels.

Outside, the setting sun illuminated the new Stop & Shop sign on the building, less than 12 hours before the new store was set to open for its first day of business, at 6 a.m.

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Comments

posted by: anon on April 15, 2011  7:19am

Nice work on the store.

But really, no bike racks? Surprising, given that an enormous share of customers at the old Shaw’s arrived by bike. You would have thought that a community-owned property like Dwight plaza, which receives significant public benefits because it is a nonprofit, would be more responsive to its community.

We know that virtually all of the decision makers and executives here drive cars and/or live in the suburbs, but oversights like these are still truly astonishing.

Do these executives provide secure, indoor bicycle parking for their part time workers?

posted by: JB on April 15, 2011  7:27am

Thank you for the good news.  Time to grocery shop.

posted by: anon2 on April 15, 2011  8:08am

awesome!!

anon ... these people worked their bums off to get a store and plenty of jobs in their community in very little time and you question their responsiveness to the community, because of the absence of bike racks?

baby steps, friend. baby steps. bike racks are coming.

posted by: anonymous on April 15, 2011  8:33am

I, too, would have like to see bike racks or some pedestrian infrastucture, but then again, as the first commenter already pointed out, these people are totally out of touch with reality. They claim victory in landing one corporate super store over another. Why is that? Has the definition of community changed somehow? Wouldn’t a true COMMUNITY group be working on stuff like, I don’t know, learning where food comes from, how to grow it, how to cook it, etc. Nope. Keep buying your processed junk and sticking it in the microwave, and then try to imagine why there are no bike racks. Because health is clearly not on their agenda!! It’s all about money.

posted by: Eat More Vegetables on April 15, 2011  9:10am

With no supermarket in the neighborhood, Frank Douglass’ grandkids were eating junk food from the corner store. With a new Stop & Shop on Whalley Avenue Friday, he said, his 7-year-old grandson Jahsir can go back to eating carrots like he’s “Bugs Bunny’s little brother.”

Really? Are there no other Supermarkets in the area?  Edge of the Woods, and the rest are only a car or bus ride away. Where there’s a will…

Welcome Stop & Shop!!!!!

posted by: Greg Smith on April 15, 2011  9:41am

To eat more vegetables. Not everyone in the area can afford Edge of the woods, and I do believe Stop & Shop have an organic section for those individuals who are interested in putting foods in their body that isnt full of toxins. Maybe the community can be educated on how to read and understand ingedients on the labels for foods and how it affects their health.

posted by: Atwater on April 15, 2011  9:45am

A food desert? A bit hyperbolic isn’t it? As someone mentioned, Edge of the Woods is nearby and they do sell carrots (and other veggies), also Stop and Shop in Amity is a short bus ride from the Edgewood neighborhood.

posted by: anonymous on April 15, 2011  9:55am

I keep hearing that edge of the woods is so expensive compared to other stores and therefore people are justified in putting junk into their bodies. Is that really the truth? Can anyone show any proof of comparison shopping?

[Editor’s Note: In an unscientific shopping survey—my own family’s shopping over the past few decades—I have found that Edge comes in less expensive on vegetables, packaged natural foods, bulk items, among other key elements of a healthful diet.]

posted by: anon on April 15, 2011  10:17am

anon2, how many comments would be made on this article if access to Stop & Shop’s parking lot was limited only to buses, bicycle traffic, and park benches for pedestrians?

posted by: anon on April 15, 2011  10:56am

When you compare stores and food prices, it is useful to compare the cost per nutrient of the different foods, not just the cost per calorie or the cost per 10-lb bag of potato chips.  Obviously the 5 liter bottle of coke is always going to be cheaper per ounce of corn syrup.

Other cities are requiring supermarkets to do this in order to educate the public on the benefits and costs of a healthy diet - it would be useful if New Haven asked its supermarkets to do the same.

posted by: anonymous on April 15, 2011  11:22am

[Editor’s Note: In an unscientific shopping survey—my own family’s shopping over the past few decades—I have found that Edge comes in less expensive on vegetables, packaged natural foods, bulk items. among other key elements of a healthful diet.]

Just as I suspected, the price issue is grossly over-exaggerated, if not completely made up. Is it true that Stop & Shop doesn’t even give you the option to buy in bulk? Some help that is to us poor people. Force us to buy pre-packaged quantities of processed foods. Thanks.

posted by: taishalee on April 15, 2011  12:10pm

I stopped by this morning to check the “new” store and although it looks great here is one major problem with this store…PRICE. I intended to buy a gallon of milk which was $1.50 more than walmart, bagged salad, Walmart $2.48, S&$ $3.99, coffee, walmart $7.98, S&S $14.99…are you kidding me, prices are 40-50% more….NO THANKS, I’ll drive to Walmart or anyother supermarket.

posted by: Atwater on April 15, 2011  1:14pm

Should the editor of news article be promoting, via anecdotal evidence, one business over another?

Also, prices in urban gorcery stores are always higher than grocery stores in non-urban areas.

posted by: anon on April 15, 2011  1:25pm

anon, I hope the new coop at 360 State will have more options to buy in bulk. I agree it is silly to require New Haven customers to require prepackaged, predetermined amounts. The community clearly told $top & $hop that they wanted a bulk section so it would be unfortunate if there isn’t one eventually planned.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on April 15, 2011  1:41pm

posted by: taishalee on April 15, 2011 1:10pm
I stopped by this morning to check the “new” store and although it looks great here is one major problem with this store…PRICE. I intended to buy a gallon of milk which was $1.50 more than walmart, bagged salad, Walmart $2.48, S&$ $3.99, coffee, walmart $7.98, S&S $14.99…are you kidding me, prices are 40-50% more….NO THANKS, I’ll drive to Walmart or anyother supermarket

I agree.In fact I told people this.Look at shoprite prices to Stop and Shop prices.I call them Stop and Rob.

P.S. Look at the pictures of the political pimps.King john cuting the ribbon.Give me a break.How him cuting taxes.

posted by: anon3 on April 15, 2011  4:16pm

I really find some of these comments annoying.

I ride a bike and take the bus and have no kids and it is very time consuming to run errands and get them all done. Even without kids I have to juggle a lot. I know how it is.

I shop at the amity store, and at Edge, which i love, but the fact of the matter is without a general supermarket in this immediate area of town it has been challenging.

I get the sense that some holier than thou East Rock types who have no idea what it is like to be poor are preaching and making fun of people for needing a general grocery store closer to us. 

Next time you hop in your car late in the evening to pick up that item you forgot, midweek, during a busy work week, with kids at home, come scold the grandfather who ran to the corner store for something rather than add 1.5 hours to the task by waiting for the bus to a better grocery store.

When I think of what it is like for me running errands, and then think of families with kids who use public transportation only ...

Edge by the way is vegetarian. the quality of its produce is superior, and the prices though not the cheapest, like at Price Rite, are definitely competitive and beat out the main groceries sometimes. Lots of bulk items are really well priced too. But it isn’t enough.

MMinor-esis a meat store on Whalley that doesn’t put the packaged date or the expiration date on a single package of meat. Ask the mayor how he gets away with that and ask the mayor and his food committee why they don’t care.

Ask the state inspectors how the heck he has been getting away with that forever.

I suppose the East Rock types want to believe it is the ignorance and laziness of we Whalley neighborhood dwellers instead of the fact that you fat cats run the show and have the fix in. That’s the reason for the ghetto meat dumping. I won’t buy meat there anymore. I learned my lesson well.

All it takes is one package of hamburger meat, that you break up only to find it aerated on the inside,(the pink gone from exposure to air) to learn all about repackaging. No date is bad enough, but with repackaging the dates wouldn’t matter anyway.

So don’t preach to us, we, the ones who are actually living without cars, about how we don’t manage our lives right. How dare you. You have no idea. Yet you are so sure that it is lack of brains or laziness that causes a grandfather to grab some inferior food at the corner store.

You would too, you remarkably ignorant know it alls. You would be the first to do it because you don’t have half the grit and endurance to live on the nickels and dimes we stretch every week.

In fact, you’re lazy. Too lazy to live without luxuries that make your lives easy, too lazy to actually know what the challenges are, too ignorant to refrain from preaching on high to us.

yes, the city has been a relative food desert. That has been demonstrated to all of us who have been juggling Edge with Amity and Hamden supermarkets for the past year. and we have been doing it without whining like these elitists are about us.

You know nothing. you’re snobs. and no doubt you are in jobs, or heading to jobs, in which you will make decisions about us.

posted by: anon3 on April 15, 2011  4:20pm

I really find some of these comments annoying.

I ride a bike and take the bus and have no kids and it is very time consuming to run errands and get them all done. Even without kids I have to juggle a lot. I know how it is.

I shop at the amity store, and at Edge, which i love, but the fact of the matter is without a general supermarket in this immediate area of town it has been challenging.

I get the sense that some holier than thou East Rock types who have no idea what it is like to be poor are preaching and making fun of people for needing a general grocery store closer to us. 

Next time you hop in your car late in the evening to pick up that item you forgot, midweek, during a busy work week, with kids at home, come scold the grandfather who ran to the corner store for something rather than add 1.5 hours to the task by waiting for the bus to a better grocery store.

When I think of what it is like for me running errands, and then think of families with kids who use public transportation only ...

Edge by the way is vegetarian. the quality of its produce is superior, and the prices though not the cheapest, like at Price Rite, are definitely competitive and beat out the main groceries sometimes. Lots of bulk items are really well priced too. But it isn’t enough.


...

So don’t preach to us, we, the ones who are actually living without cars, about how we don’t manage our lives right. ...


yes, the city has been a relative food desert. That has been demonstrated to all of us who have been juggling Edge with Amity and Hamden supermarkets for the past year. and we have been doing it without whining ...

posted by: East Rockette on April 15, 2011  6:55pm

anon3: I’m a “holier than thou East Rock type” who is thrilled, both for myself and for people who live in the Whalley neighborhood, that we now have another supermarket within reach.

Edge of the Woods is another great option. And when the State 360 coop opens, so much the better.

It’s all good, and we’re all pretty happy!

posted by: Tom Joad on April 15, 2011  7:50pm

Kudos to Megan Fountain and the other human rights activists who brought up the crucial issue of farmworker human rights in Stop & Shop/Ahold USA’s tomato supply chain. Here’s hoping the “response” promised by Onorato will be a positive and constructive one, so that Ahold and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers can start working together to make the Florida tomato industry an example of socially responsible agriculture.
http://ciw-online.org/highlights.html
http://news.change.org/stories/dc-youth-to-picket-giant-supermarket-demand-fair-food

posted by: SBJ on April 15, 2011  8:58pm

@anon3…. Couldn’t have said it better. You on your soapboxes should come on down and meet the real world.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on April 16, 2011  4:40pm

posted by: anon3 on April 15, 2011 5:20pm
I really find some of these comments annoying.

Then you should not read them.

posted by: streever on April 17, 2011  8:34am

Atwater:
No, the editor should not be: however, the editor SHOULD feel free to share his personal experience, making sure to label it as such.

Good thing Paul didn’t promote one store over another, huh? I’m not sure why you asked that rhetorical question, because Paul has never done that, but your instinct is correct.

posted by: Hank on April 17, 2011  7:41pm

Are you kidding me?  Letting kids eat junk food because you can’t get carrots?  EOTW has carrots for 4 cents more.  Or take the bus to Amity.  Or buy the carrots at Farmer’s Market.  ...