BERLIN - Ferndale Market Fresh is closing for good on Friday.
“We couldn’t get the (customers),” Johnathan Garcia, the assistant store manager, said Wednesday.
He cited the store’s proximity to Stop & Shop on Farmington Avenue - a drive of less than 2.5 miles - and Stew Leonard’s on the Berlin Turnpike in Newington - just 7 miles away - as significant factors.
Ferndale’s 18,000-square-foot grocery store at 45 Chamberlain Highway opened in early 2016 under the ownership of Salim Saleh.
In October 2016, Saleh sold it to Edwin Sanchez.
“We’re going to redistribute any remaining products to our other locations,” said Sanchez’s son, Edwin Jr., who added that paying rent on the building was never an issue.
The younger Sanchez said the other locations, which are run under a different name, are in Danbury and Norwalk.
The Berlin site had sat vacant for about a year after Roger’s Marketplace, an IGA store, closed in January 2015 after 11 years. Then-owner Roger Perno cited “the changing face of food retailing along with a struggling economy,” in a Herald story published at the time.
The location had housed a grocery store since the late 1960s, with previous tenants including Gnazzo’s Food Center and Sussman’s.
“They have to entertain the people, big time. It can’t just be about opening the store itself,” said Garcia of any owner who wants to move into the space and be successful.
Ferndale Market sold traditional grocery-store food and household items, along with specialty goods, but it wasn’t a “complete store” like Stop & Shop and was smaller with less attractive displays, Garcia said.
He said the building is in great condition. Saleh completed more than $830,000 in renovations including updating or replacing everything such as wiring, plumbing, and heating and air condition systems before selling. Registers, a café area and signs were added.
Residents had posted on a Facebook page that the store had high prices, poor food selection and sanitation issues, but Garcia denied those allegations.
While the store did sell pricier specialty items, Garcia said Ferndale Market Fresh consistently stocked fresh produce and sold milk 50 cents cheaper than Stop & Shop, but customers still wouldn’t patronize the store.
“The bottom line is we didn’t get the people,” said Garcia.
“It didn’t work out and I wish it did” said town Economic Development Director Chris Edge, adding that he met with the store’s owners a few months ago to try to find ways the store could better serve the residents of the town’s Kensington section.
Edge said he is unsure when the building might be occupied again or who might be interested in moving in, but is pursuing every angle to attract a family-owned local market.
A Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods or Aldi store wouldn’t work because the building is too small and there is not enough traffic.
A letter in The Herald last October by Kensington resident J.P. Young read, in part, “Ferndale Market needs your support and has tried very hard to fill all our needs. Let’s not let them down…Wake up before it’s too late. Go see what you are missing.”
The store will close for good Friday evening.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.