Old Greenwich bids farewell to Porricelli’s

It’s the end of an era for Porricelli’s Market, which will soon be replaced by the upscale chain Kings Food Markets at its Old Greenwich location, ending a presence in town that’s lasted six decades.

After 63 years, Jerry Porricelli Jr., owner of the family-run market, said he made the difficult decision to close down its operation, but not before making an important stipulation first: If the store were to shut down, it was paramount that it be replaced with another food market.

Fortunately, the store’s replacement “has the same DNA” as Porricelli’s, Mr. Porricelli told the Post.

Kings has the “fantastic service and good quality food” that was critical to Porricelli’s success he said. “I feel comfortable having them here.”

Most importantly, Kings has indicated that it will hire at least some of Porricelli’s current employees, Mr. Porricelli explained, so both workers and regular customers will maintain a sense of familiarity after Kings takes over.

“Customers get attached to a business and people … I have mixed emotions but I’m happy to understand that [employees] will remain.” Furthermore, Mr. Porricelli will remain closely connected to the Old Greenwich location, where he will maintain both ownership of the property as well as his office.

Rumors had been flying for weeks about the closure of Porricelli’s and they finally became official on Monday when Kings sent out a press release announcing the change.

Having worked 45 years in the same place, Mr. Porricelli said it’s hard to imagine working outside the food market his father built. Although he practiced law for a few years when he was younger, he couldn’t stay away from Porricelli’s where he can still remember stocking shelves on summer vacation as a 13-year-old boy.

“I found food was my passion,” he said.

Though the Porricelli’s Trumbull location will remain open after the Old Greenwich store closes in mid September, Mr. Porricelli said, it’s upsetting to realize that the Greenwich location “was the last of the real neighborhood stores.” The family once had stores on Greenwich Avenue and in Cos Cob and now all three will be closed.

Mr. Porricelli said his father’s favorite way to describe the Old Greenwich market was as a “side street grocer.” Tucked away on Arcadia Road, it took time “to get the engine going” but eventually the store became cornerstone to the area.

In this day and age, however, what used to be neighborhood institutions are diminishing rapidly. In recent years both a Stop & Shop and a Shop Rite have opened on the Post Road right by the Greenwich/Stamford border, eating into the business that had once gone to his Old Greenwich location.

“Unfortunately the independent operator has been squeezed out by the supercenters,” Mr. Porricelli said.

“The landscape has changed significantly in the last 10 years” for grocery stores all over the country. Mom and pop businesses are now forced to battle a surplus of new competitors and supersized chains like Costco and BJ’s, he explained.

Nevertheless, “the timing is right” for the closure of the Old Greenwich Porricelli’s, the owner said. “The great part is [Kings] is 100% committed to doing the best job and they will do the things necessary to bring us to the next level.”

Mr. Porricelli said he is confident that the Porricelli’s legacy will be continued with Kings.

With 24 locations in New York and New Jersey, Kings President and CEO Judy Spires told the Post she is thrilled to be extending the 76-year-old chain into its first Connecticut location. The company had its eye on Old Greenwich for a long time before the opportunity to acquire the locale arose a few months ago, she said.

Now, with the Porricelli’s deal underway, Kings looks forward to providing superior products and services, using its “long history of understanding foodies” to drive customers into the store, Ms. Spires explained.

The Parsipanny, N.J.-based market, she promised, prides itself on offering the highest quality foods, from locally grown produce to hand-selected cheeses from more than 20 countries to gourmet chef-prepared meals.

“At Kings, we share our love of food with our customers, and we’re excited to have the opportunity to introduce this passion to a new community in Old Greenwich,” Ms. Spires said in a press release. “Our goal is for customers to discover those moments in our stores where inspiration strikes, whether it’s finally finding a rare ingredient, creating a delicious menu using recipes from Kings’ chefs, or knowing they can rely on pairing suggestions and preparation tips from our associates. We know that Porricelli’s Market has been a pillar of the Old Greenwich community for 60 years, and we are committed to providing the same level of personal, attentive service that is truly the cornerstone of our brand experience.”

Kings’ “winning proposition” is its associates who “do a fabulous job putting finishing touches on products,” Ms. Spires explained.

“I feel positive that when Old Greenwich experiences our inspiration brand, there will be demand” for more Kings locations in Connecticut, she added. “We are very proud and excited about coming to the community and really interested to meet their food needs.”

Kings Food Markets is slated to open in Old Greenwich in late September. Prior to then, the store will be closed for a short period of time to enhance the current space and offerings.

Mr. Porricelli said he will personally be involved in the store transition, and will be happy to see necessary improvements made to the market.

“I look forward to welcoming customers to the store as Kings becomes an exciting new addition to Old Greenwich,” he said.

 

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