It’s no mirage — starting this spring, downtown New Haven will be a “food desert” no more.
Chain grocer Stop & Shop announced plans Tuesday to move into the Whalley Avenue space once occupied by Shaw’s. Stop & Shop’s plan to move into Dwight Place comes a year after Shaw’s parent company, Minneapolis-based Supervalu Inc., closed all 18 of its Connecticut locations, leaving Yale and downtown New Haven without a major grocer. The new Stop & Shop location is slated to open late this spring, after the company renovates the 56,000 square-foot building to meet company-wide style and layout standards.
“Hurrah! Cheers! Kudos,” Yale College Dean Mary Miller wrote in an e-mail to the News. “This is terrific for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, along with the greater community of New Haven. I look forward to shopping there once a week or more.”
The new location will tailor its selection to the area’s demographics, Stop & Shop spokeswoman Amy Murphy said. For Yale students, that means an emphasis on natural or organic foods as well as prepared foods for on-the-go meals, she added; for members of the area’s large Hispanic community, that could mean more foods used in Latino dishes.
“We’ve started to do a lot of research and will continue to do that research to try to present the best store with the best assortment of products,” Murphy said.
Students as well as community and University leaders heralded Stop & Shop’s arrival as big news for New Haven. Linda Townsend-Maier, the director of the Greater Dwight Development Corporation, which owns the property, called the announcement a “relief.”
“I was concerned that it wouldn’t happen but hopeful that it would, and now that we have finalized the deal, I am totally delighted,” she said.
Indeed, many administrators expressed enthusiasm that New Haven’s year-long food drought was finally over. Bruce Alexander ’65, the vice president for New Haven and state affairs, said he was a regular at Shaw’s and plans to frequent Stop & Shop.
Students, too, welcomed the news that Stop & Shop would be moving in within walking distance.
“One of the worst parts of living off-campus this year was that there was no grocery store,” said Eva Uribe ’11. “It’s been a huge hassle to get food.”
Uribe and her housemates on Dwight Street occasionally used Zipcar to go to other grocery stores, like the Stop & Shop further down Whalley, but that option often proved costly. More often, she said, they just went without groceries, which meant “a lot of granola bars … whatever you can get at Gourmet Heaven.”
Some, like Dwight Street resident Matthew Spaulding ’12, chose to use online grocers, such as Peapod. But Peapod charges a $9.95 delivery fee after the first 60 days of membership.
“I’m very excited about Stop & Shop … it’ll be nice to be able to choose my own produce,” Spaulding said.
Since Shaw’s closed its doors, Yale has been intimately involved in the search for a new grocer for Dwight Place. University Properties director Abigail Rider helped with the negotiations. So did a handful of Yale Law School and School of Management students in the law school’s Ludwig Community Development clinic. The clinic, directed by Robin Golden ’79 LAW ’98, assisted the Development Corporation and the Greater Dwight Community Investment Corporation with legal advice and financial analysis.
“I’m hoping that they’re going to be very anxious to reach out to the community and make sure what they’re carrying meets the needs of the community,” Golden said of the new store.
Shaw’s first came to Dwight Place in 1998, and before it closed was one of the highest-volume stores in the state, according to the press release.