Published in the February 4, 2016 edition


NORTH READING — Five years after the possibility was first raised, Stop & Shop Co., owners of the vacant former old supermarket at 97 Main St., seems ready to pursue once again the possibility of bringing in Ocean State Job Lots as a tenant for their empty building.

Representatives from Stop & Shop, Ocean State Job Lots and Stop & Shop’s real estate broker met with town officials about a week and a half ago to advise the town they were ready to file a building permit application for the old Stop & Shop, and that filing took place last week.

The old Stop & Shop location has been empty since the supermarket moved up the street to occupy the former Star Market site. The 97 Main St. property has major frontage on Route 28 and is also across Winter Street from St. Theresa Church.

Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto and Town Planner Danielle McKnight and other officials met with and briefed the Stop & Shop representatives on the town’s planning efforts to make that part of Route 28 more walkable and attractive with mixed used development and possibly residential units. Gilleberto said the Stop & Shop and Ocean State representatives stated their positions as to why they feel they’re entitled to a building permit and also expressed that they are willing to be engaged in the town’s planning for the long term going forward.

T.A. Gilleberto said the town will perform its due diligence on the building permit as it would on any building application and the Building Inspector will consult with Town Counsel on the need for any further review.

Gilleberto, who was not here five years ago when Ocean State first came up as a tenant, reviewed with the business people that last time there was fairly broad opposition in town based on the appearance of other Job Lot Stores and other concerns. This time the representatives said the company’s new stores are designed to be more appealing to the consumer than in the past, Gilleberto said.

Five years ago, one local resident created a Facebook page called, “North Reading does not want Ocean State Job Lots in our community” and over 100 people “liked” the page. The most common objections were that Ocean State Job Lot’s image is not what the town wants to project and there are already two other discount stores literally located across the street.

“Job Lots 2.0” promised

David Sarlitto, Executive Director of Ocean State Job Lots, said such concerns are outdated and that their new stores, which he called “Job Lots 2.0” are nothing like the chain’s older “legacy” stores.

Sarlitto said the company representatives recognize the town’s misgivings on the surface and it was important to hear the town’s plans for the area and he applauds what the town is trying to do. “I can see very easily why the town is trying to put a plan together for the area” but the new Job Lots offerings won’t detract from that.

The new stores are attractive and larger, with “wide aisles, very clean, very airy, lots of product presented in a professional retail manner with an open format,” and this is what the North Reading location would be like, Sarlitto said.

“That is the store configuration that we envision” for North Reading, Sarlitto said.

He said he plans to have a videographer to shoot a video while rollerblading through one of the new stores and put up a link on the internet so North Reading residents can see what it looks like on the internet.

“It’s not a Nordstrom’s,” he admitted. “But you still get the feeling there is value here with a lot of late model import cars out front.” He compared them to Trader Joe’s.

“It’s disheartening to hear people talk about whether it’s something people will want there, because I can see that it is. The newer ones are becoming hubs.”

The company has many programs to give back to the community including donations to food banks, veterans and teachers, he said.

“Job Lots has become the first stop in a lot of towns,” regardless of the demographic profile. We’ve never made an effort in North Reading to show the town what we do or what the plan for that store is,” and he expects that will change going forward.