First came the rumors. Now it's official. Kings Food Markets announced on Monday that the company has expanded into Connecticut with the acquisition of in Old Greenwich. With 24 locations, the upscale Kings is headquartered in Parsippany, New Jersey.
Longtime Riverside resident and Porricelli's customer Barbara Malone reacted to the news during a midday trip to the market. "I had heard the rumors," said Malone. "And I noticed some items hadn't been restocked. It'll be sad to see them go. This is the last old-fashioned market. They bag your groceries. They bring your groceries to your car too." Pausing to reflect for a moment, Malone continued. "I mostly come here because of the people. I just hope they take care of their employees."
Reached by phone, Jerry Porricelli said, "I'm not the formal determinant, but I know Kings will place a lot of emphasis on the employees. I don't envision much of the lineup changing."
Kings provided a statement regarding employment at the Old Greenwich store:
Kings Food Markets is committed to providing best-in-class customer service to the Old Greenwich community, and expects to deliver this exceptional in-store experience via existing associates as well as new qualified candidates.
If you are a passionate food lover looking to share your love of food, Kings is the place for you! Anyone interested in learning more about employment opportunities can call 973-463-6313.
Porricelli explained that after operating in Old Greenwich for 63 years, "We talked to a lot of companies and Kings is best suited to take over. Besides, I will be here. I have an office upstairs. The building will not be sold," he said, adding that he owns the building at 26 Arcadia Rd.
"I think our customers will be happy and satisfied," said Porricelli of the acquisition. Asked whether he expects the average market basket to increase in price, he replied with a definitive, "No." In fact, Porricelli added, "They have a good pricing concept. They have better opportunity to negotiate due to their size. They can leverage wholesale prices."
Porricelli recalled the community response after he closed his Cos Cob store location and CVS moved in. "I remember how upset our customers were that we left the area. I made it an absolute must that in this location we'd put in a food store and Kings is the very best."
Porricelli asks that customers continue to shop in the store and give Kings a try. "There are not too many local independent businesses in Greenwich that are more than a half century old," said Porricelli, after explaining that he will be present during the transition. "I would certainly ask that our customers keep shopping here."
According to a Kings prepared statement, the store "provides customers with a unique shopping experience paired with the highest quality foods. From locally sourced, organically grown produce, to hand-selected cheeses from over 20 countries, to chef-crafted prepared foods, Kings seeks to bring exceptional gourmet items to shoppers in all of the company’s locations."
Executive Director of the , Marcia O'Kane, said Porricelli’s will be missed. "Many town residents have frequented his store in order to support the 'shop local' theme," said O'Kane. "The store has just the right touch of old fashioned courtesy and service that makes the shopping experience so special."
Farewell to the last Greenwich IGA
Porricelli's is a member of the IGA, Independent Grocers Alliance. According to the IGA website, the alliance, founded in 1926, brings together independent grocers across the United States "to ensure that the trusted, family-owned local grocery store remained strong in the face of growing chain competition."
IGA, with its motto of Hometown Proud, boasts on its website that, "Today that entrepreneurial family business spirit is alive and well, and communities across the US are being served by second, third and even fourth generation independent IGA retailers." In the case of Greenwich, this description will no longer apply.
Up North Street in Banksville, the former IGA supermarket awaits a . For now, the empty store sits frozen in time, with its vintage fixtures collecting dust.
In a prepared response to questions submitted by Patch, Kings provided details on the timing of the transition. "The store will open as Kings Food Markets in late September. Prior to then, the store will be closed for a short period of time so that Kings can enhance the current space and offerings in order to bring the best possible shopping experience to the Old Greenwich community."
A Tough Act to Follow
In addition to being known for being good to his employees, Porricelli has a reputation for his generosity to Greenwich charities including , , and .
Longtime Riverside resident, Bernard Schneider, said he laments "the passing of a Greenwich institution that did so much, quietly, and without asking for recognition, for the students in our schools and our community generally."
Schneider recalled a time several years ago when he worked as a substitute teacher at . "I often worked as a special education aide. There was an arrangement between Porricelli and the school that involved the kids in doing work at the store. Memory dims of the details, but it was a really nice outreach effort."
About Kings Food Markets
Kings is based in Parsippany, NJ, with 24 stores serving the region. For more information, visit www.kingsfoodmarkets.com.