It has been almost three months since the Grand Union closed its doors on Depot Street for good, forcing local customers to seek another place to buy groceries. It has been almost three months since the Grand Union closed its doors on Depot Street for good, forcing local customers to seek another place to buy groceries.

While the end of the store’s run in town has had a definite impact on shoppers, it has also had a mixed impact on other businesses in town.

The average Duxburyite need look no further than the parking lot of the A&P Plaza to notice that there is a lot less traffic ñ both in terms of cars and people in the area.  The businesses within the plaza that spoke with the Clipper said that the decrease in movement has not necessarily hurt their business, with at least one adapting to keep up with customers’ needs.

“The Grand Union’s closure has made only a marginal impact on us,” said Vincent Pizzi, district manager for Brooks Pharmacy.  “We haven’t seen any major changes except a less crowded parking lot, but it has given us a major increase in sales.”

Pizzi said that there has been a higher demand for convenience foods and as a result, the store has expanded their dairy section to include items such as eggs, butter and cream to serve customers who used to stop into the Grand Union.  Brooks will even expand their convenience food section in a few weeks, he said, to add canned goods, cereal, cake mix and other items to meet an increasing demand by shoppers.

Over at the Paint Paddle, manager Gary Hedrick said that business has been relatively the same since the supermarket’s closing, and that unlike Brooks or even the Video Scene, the items in the store aren’t really standards on anyone’s weekend to-do list.

There is a similar feeling at Ejoba Interiors next door where co-owner Susan Lougee Thomas said that her business has not really felt the effect of the missing grocer.

All three businesses in the plaza did say that they would like to see another grocery store populate the empty space again.

“I’ve lived in town for 48 years and Duxbury has always had some type of convenience grocery store,” said Lougee Thomas.  “My concern is that people seeking alternative grocery stores are going out of town and it will be harder to bring them back once they are accustomed to [those stores].  The new grocery store here needs to be geared towards service because that’s what people want and what will bring them back.”

As of press time, there has been no new word on the future of the empty store.

Repeated calls to Carl Wistreich, senior vice president and deputy general counsel for Grand Union’s parent company, C&S Wholesale Grocers, went unreturned.

Landlord Bill Kaull of Boston Safe Deposit and Trust Company has said he will not comment on the lease for the space, except that Grand Union / C&S is the current lease holder.  Kaull said Thursday that the only action regarding the empty store has been a broken pipe caused by the weather, but that not a peep has been heard in or out of the store.

“I’ve never heard from [C&S] ñ I’ve had no contact,” he said.  “I’m honestly beginning to wonder what their agenda is.  I don’t know what they are up to.”

The only word on filling the space has come from Village Market owner Jim McInnis who as recently as last month said he is still in negotiations with C&S to make Duxbury the third location for his stores along with Roslindale and Scituate.

McInnis did not return phone calls by the Clipper regarding the status of these negotiations. 

<b>Departure A Mixed Bag</b>

While the waiting game continues, other Duxbury businesses are also feeling the effects of not having a grocer in town, with some positive and some negative reaction.

Businesses specializing in food and spirits across from the plaza at Duxbury Marketplace for example, have felt the impact, but in different ways.

At D’Orazio’s Italian Marketplace, husband and wife owners Michael and Christen Allocca said that since the departure of the Grand Union, they’ve discovered new faces coming into their store and an increase in sales of sandwiches and prepared meals.

Meanwhile, at The Wine Depot and Liquors, co-owners Paula and Ken Durfee said they have noticed fewer people coming through their doors, but that business has been mildly affected since Grand Union left town.

“Business hasn’t been that bad, but it would improve if a market moved in across the street,” said Mr. Durfee.  “If you keep people in town to shop here, they will stay here.  Now they have to leave town to grocery shop and have no choices except to pick up smaller items like milk and eggs at corner stores.”

Durfee shares the fear that the longer the town goes without a grocery store, the longer shoppers will do all of their shopping out-of-town as it becomes more convenient.

At Duxbury Wine and Spirits, co-owner Carole Carroll said that she has definitely noticed a change in the local business scene since Grand Union’s exit.

“Since the ëbig black hole’ has existed, we’ve observed a decrease in weekday traffic and some weekend traffic as people are forced to go to neighboring [towns] for groceries,” she said.  “The magnet is not there and it has definitely impacted us and is especially a tremendous hardship for seniors who live at Duxborrough Village.”

Carroll said that the town definitely needs a replacement grocery provider on Depot Street and that the Village Market would be an ideal suitor for the current vacancy.

“Those stores are beautiful, well-stocked and their size is comparable to what we have here,” she said.  “We definitely need our own little market.  The bottom line is that it is win-win ñ it gives the town an economic boost and we need it to ride on its coattails and return to our regular business.”

<b>Meeting the Demand</b>

There are those businesses in town, however, who are doing quite fine without Grand Union’s presence, filling the void left for a spot for convenient grocery items.

At the Exxon Tiger Mart, manager Mary McAdams said that she has seen an increase in grocery sales way up from the previous month as customers come in for staples.

“People are even asking me to order things for them and if they want them, we’ll order them,” she said.  “I have heard people comment about how inconvenient things have been since the Grand Union closed, because they don’t want to or can’t travel [to neighboring towns for groceries].”

Across the street at the Hall’s Corner Store, manager Dipti Patel said that they are also taking requests from customers and broadening the food items they carry to meet the demand of shoppers.

“We are doing well in terms of sales of milk, bread and other grocery items and seeing a lot more people stop in,” she said.  “Some have commented how easy it is to run in and get what they need and told us what they’d like to see, such as vegetables and other items.”

Produce needs are definitely being met over at Millbrook Market where proprietor Jesse Durant said that Grand Union’s loss has been his gain as more people stop in and discover the variety he carries in the store.

“People might have stopped in for one reason before, but now they’ve looked around and realized we have groceries available,” he said.  “Sales have definitely been better than last winter, so it has been a pleasant surprise since [Grand Union] closed.”

Durrant added that he too is taking requests to stock the shelves and while he’d like to see something new come to Depot St., it doesn’t need to come too quickly.

“I’m happy it is empty right now, even though business breeds business,” he said.

Donna Wood, president of the Duxbury Business Association, said that businesses in town have survived the loss of the supermarket by attracting customers by themselves, but that one group affected has instead been local community groups.

“The ones affected are all those little groups who’ve used that plaza as a place to set up a table to sell things or run a raffle,” she said.  “The only other place with as much traffic [as that area] is the transfer station, so it has affected the way we think about our community and we’ve lost a gathering place.”