ADAMS, Mass. — The town's two state lawmakers are calling on Big Y to work more closely with local officials during the grocery's closing and expected transfer to a new owner.
Big Y Foods Inc. of Springfield announced that Adams location it's operated for 35 years would be closing early in March and that some 90 people would be out of a job.
"It is inexcusable that this decision was made by company management without first alerting the Adams Select Board or Community Development officials," said state Sen. Adam Hinds in a joint statement with state Rep. John Barrett III. "It goes without saying that losing 90 jobs will be impactful — in all the wrong ways — in Northern Berkshire, and residents who have shopped at the Adams Big Y for a generation now are left without a hometown market."
Employees were informed Thursday morning but town officials learned through the grapevine. Select Board member James Bush said someone had called him from the store.
"The town had no advanced knowledge of the closing – it came as a complete shock to the Select Board and town staff after hearing from community members this morning," said Donna Cesan, the town's community development director and interim town administrator, later in Thursday.
While Big Y officials say they are working with an unidentified partner to transfer the supermarket to a new owner, those talks are still underway. Local officials are concerned that their town — the third largest community in Berkshire County — will not have a grocery for the first time. Especially one walkable to a substantial portion of the town's downtown area.
"There is no excuse for their failure to reach out to elected town officials prior to closing its Adams store," said Barrett. "It should be noted that in 1917, Jacob Wineberg opened the first Adams Supermarket in the town of Adams. Big Y in 1984 purchased the Adams Supermarket Stores in Berkshire County from the Wineberg family, with a promise to carrying on the tradition of providing the same quality service. We're asking that Big Y immediately open discussions with town officials so that they can work together to find a quality replacement store."
The grocer has been a staple in Adams for more than a century, opening in 1917 on Myrtle Street as "Adams Cut-Price Market." By the late 1940s, it was in a modern structure on Park Street as Adams Super Markets (where Greylock Federal Credit Union is now). Twenty years and several new branches later, the Adams store and chain headquarters moved back to Myrtle Street — almost to the same spot where Wineberg had started cutting meat 52 years previously.
The local market catered especially to the town's Polish heritage. Wineberg was born in Poland in 1894 and came to the United States in 1912 at the age of 18. The Myrtle Street market was a marvel of modern consumption when it opened Feb. 25, 1969: computerized scales, conveyor belts, carpeted produce displays, lots of stainless steel and special carts that could be unloaded by the checkout clerk.
The Adams Supermarket six-store chain was purchased in 1984 by D'Amours Big Y, another family-owned grocer based in Springfield. Over the years, supermarkets began to grow larger and larger as competition increased. A number of the chains 82 locations underwent growth spurts, including the North Adams store that expanded in size and offerings. More than $1 million was invested in the 47,000 square feet supermarket in 2013.
The Adams location also received an investment but the size of the store at just 16,000 square feet (not including offices) was too small for the expanded offerings of the supermarket.
"As Big Y's retail model has grown and evolved, it has become harder and harder to fit within the constraints of
this facility," company officials said. "Customers become confused when they see items offered in Big Y's flyer or in neighboring stores but cannot find them in the Adams store because there is simply not enough space."
The store's managers were let go almost immediately on Thursday and a firm brought in to oversee the final sales. Employees staying on will get severance pay and the local employment board, Mass Hire, is bringing in the rapid response team to the store to help them with unemployment and job searches.
Cesan said the loss of the supermarket was a huge blow for downtown residents without personal transportation. The closest markets to Adams and Cheshire are the Walmart Superstore on Curran Highway and the Big Y in downtown North Adams to the north, and stores in Pittsfield to the south.
This is the second grocer to close an outdated location in North County: Price Chopper shuttered its 60-year-old market on State Road in North Adams in 2016. It, too, was near a very walkable residential area.
"After speaking with Big Y corporate headquarters today we anticipate a new grocer will be named for this location," Hinds said on Friday. "Rep. Barrett and I are available to help make that a reality and urge all parties to stay in close communication moving forward in this transition."
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