Two weeks from now, downtown New Haven’s food drought will be over.
Supermarket chain Stop & Shop has nearly completed the process of moving into the Whalley Avenue building that once housed a Shaw’s supermarket and is well on track to its April 15 opening, store manager Anne Demchak said. In preparing for the opening, store employees have been keeping in mind the needs of the community.
So far, Demchak says preparations are running smoothly — the store has hired 150 employees, all from New Haven, Demchak said. Preference was given to displaced Shaw’s employees and adults who have been out of work, she added. Construction inside is well underway, as well, as signs and aisles in the Stop & Shop fashion have sprung up throughout the Whalley Avenue location.
As originally promised, the store will feature a selection of products tailored to the local interests of the community, Demchak said.
“We’re going to have foods from every ethnicity you can think of,” she said. The store will feature an entire aisle for international foods, and its selection will include ingredients traditionally used in Hispanic and African-American dishes. The store will also feature an extensive selection of beer.
Stop & Shop’s opening comes as welcome news for students and administrators alike. Yale College Dean Mary Miller lamented the closure of Shaw’s last spring, calling it “my store,” and in February cheered the news that Stop & Shop would be moving in.
Demchak will host an opening party the evening of April 14, and in the days preceding the store’s opening, she said she hopes to set up Stop & Shop tables in Yale’s dining halls so that students can sign up for discount cards.
Though Shaw’s once housed a pharmacy, residents will not be able to pick up prescriptions at Stop & Shop because Demchak figures most shoppers have already found new places to fill prescriptions, she said.
When Shaw’s closed its Whalley Avenue location last March, community organizers worried about the possibility that New Haven would become an urban food desert that lacked a major grocer, and that the departure of Shaw’s would bring an economic renaissance in the Dwight area to a halt. The future of Dwight Place, the shopping area now anchored by Stop & Shop, remained uncertain for a year, as the Greater Dwight Development Corporation, the building’s owner, worked to find a replacement for Shaw’s. The Corporation announced in February that Stop & Shop would take over Shaw’s lease and bring a grocer to downtown once again, to much excitement from city and University administrators.
Another grocery store, the co-op Elm City Market, is slated to open at the bottom of 360 State Street in June.