The Johnston community thought they had landed the Ocean State’s first Market Basket grocery store.
With the opening of a Warwick location this week, the company behind Market Basket has yet to set an opening date for the Johnston store.
DeMoulas Super Market Inc. Operations Manager, David K. McLean, who attended a preview of the new Warwick store on Wednesday, said he expects the Johnston location will open in about 2-3 months.
He said that although the store looks finished from the outside, it takes a long time to get the inside ready.
Store representatives have not returned repeated calls seeking information on the delay.
For now, concrete slabs and building materials pack large sections of the parking lot, holding spaces for future shoppers.
Initially expected to be Rhode Island’s first Market Basket grocery store, the Johnston location now sits idle, and the region’s potential customers await announcement of an official grand opening date.
Now Warwick has the Ocean State’s first Market Basket.
“There is no set date” when the Johnston store will open, according to Colleen McCormack, an administrative assistant for DeMoulas Super Market Inc., owners of the Market Basket chain.
Traffic cones partially block the Johnston store entrance.
The new store was constructed at the site of the former BJ’s Wholesale Club.
Perched on a hill, the blazing red “Market Basket” sign can be spotted from many directions. It’s visible from the parking lot behind Town Hall, framed by a few scraggly tree limbs.
Electricians and other contracted workers’ vans are the only vehicles moving in and out of the vast Market Basket lot, as the store’s insides are readied for an eventual grand opening.
Johnston Town Council Vice-President Joseph Polisena Jr. has been eagerly anticipating the Johnston store opening.
“I haven’t heard anything specific why it’s taking so long,” he said.
“I don’t know if it’s an issue with Covid, but that didn’t seem to impede the Warwick location’s opening.”
Polisena Jr. hopes Market Basket announces an official grand opening date soon.
“I want to see it open as fast as possible,” he said. “But I want to make sure everything is done right on their end. I’m excited that they’re coming here. Competition is good for the consumers.”
The Warwick store will open on May 21, at 7 a.m., with a ribbon-cutting ceremony held on Wednesday, May 19.
New Market Baskets have also been built in Hanover and Shrewsbury, Mass., but opening dates have also not yet been set for those two locations.
Market Basket has been silent on its plans for the Johnston store.
A store spokesman has not returned calls for comment, and neither McCormack nor McLean would say what caused the delay.
The company now runs 85 stores, throughout New England, in four states.
The Market Basket chain has a long history in New England.
Athanasios and Efrosini Demoulas immigrated from Kalambacka, Greece and settled in Lowell, Mass. in 1908.
Familiar with farming and agriculture, Athanasios picked up his past profession in his new homeland, cultivating crops and raising livestock, according to a slideshow on the history of the company, on the company website.
The couple opened a small food store near their home and called it “The Acre” (also known as the “Acre-Acropolis”) in 1917. They specialized in selling lamb, pork and sausage, according to the Demoulas Super Markets, Inc. website.
Throughout the 1920s, the lone “DeMoulas” store specialized in catering to the local Greek, French and Irish immigrant communities in downtown Lowell.
Barely surviving the Great Depression, by the 1930s the small “grocerette” faced the threat of foreclosure.
Athanasios and Efrosini’s son, Telemachus “T.A.” Demoulas, dropped out of high school during his sophomore year, and went to work helping his parents keep the store open.
Acknowledging the struggles faced by practically all their customers in the 1940s, the family allowed shoppers to buy groceries on credit.
Another son, George, joined the family business. The aging founders sold the business to T.A. and George in 1954, for $15,000, and the store grew from “superette” into a “supermarket,” according to the company history on the Market Basket website.
Aiming to solidify the store’s reputation for high quality food products at low prices, the brothers coined the phrase “More For Your Dollar,” which became more than a motto, but a tradition at the store as it grew into a chain over the next 70 years.
In 1963, T.A. DeMoulas established the company’s Profit Sharing plan, envisioning a company where the associates would directly benefit from the stores’ success. The program still exists today, an anomaly amid the nation’s primarily corporate-owned supermarket industry.
In 1975, the store opened its 17th location, and for the first time, called it “Market Basket.”
Over the next few decades, the chain expanded throughout New England.
In 2014, over a turbulent summer packed with picketing and protests, “associates, customers and vendors support a seven-week boycott,” in an effort to keep family management in charge of the company.
“Over 25,000 associates and millions of customers united to keep management in place and carry on Telemachus’ legacy of loyalty, discipline, respect, fairness and honesty,” according to the Market Basket website history. “Justice ultimately prevails.”
In 2017, Market Basket celebrated a century in business.