By Dustin Luca
---- — A downtown shuffle has landed a third-generation jewelry shop in a new home and a popular frozen yogurt shop setting its sights on an expansion.
After a somewhat bitter property dispute, the owners of Grecoe Jewelers packed up the inventory from their storefront at 26 Park St. just off the downtown — where they had spent the last 43 years — and relocated about 1/4-mile away on North Main Street in a business village adjacent to Whole Foods, where they have happily settled in.
The Grecoe family’s departure from Park Street clears the way for former next-door neighbor, Orange Leaf owner Dave Pierre, to proceed with plans to better accommodate his frozen yogurt fans who have had to wait in line outdoors when his shop is at its busiest.
Pierre intends to knock down the wall between Orange Leaf and Grecoe’s and add a topping lane, more seating and other enhancements aimed at reducing wait times.
He said he plans to apply some of the tricks he’s learned managing customer volume and flow at his other Orange Leaf franchises in Newburyport and Salem to the Andover location.
The Andover site — Pierre’s first Orange Leaf, which he opened a couple years ago — is decidedly smaller than his other locations, often resulting in lines running out of the restaurant and down the street.
While the number of self-serve yogurt machines won’t change in the expansion, the topping area will double in size with a new station and the overall space will be larger to allow more people to enjoy their selections inside, said Pierre, who also helps others open new Orange Leaf franchises throughout New England.
“I’m not looking to bring in more customers. I’m looking to give my existing customers a much better customer experience,” he said.
Pierre will also be adding more products in Andover, including “frozees” — a new take on smoothies done frozen yogurt style — and frozen yogurt cookies.
Work on the expansion is expected to start soon, with heavy construction slated to close Orange Leaf for up to a week during the slow season of early fall. Pierre said the remodeled Andover Orange Leaf should re-open in late September or early October.
Move is `diamond in the rough’
When you’re in business for 80 years, you tend to adapt as the world changes around you.
That’s exactly what the Grecoe family has done in setting up shop in its new home at 168 North Main St.
It’s not a move the family had initially intended to make.
Grecoe Jewelers had been a fixture on Park Street since 1970 after it left a less-than-desirable space on Main Street, according to second-generation owner Barry Grecoe and his wife, Nancy.
“The place we were in over there (on Main Street) was horrible,” Barry Grecoe said. “The brook ran underneath it. It had rats, and the town would come in and kill them, but it smelled like hell.”
Five years ago, around the time that Grecoe Jewelers signed another five-year lease for 26 Park St., the property changed hands. In the past year, with that lease nearing its end, there appears to have been a disagreement over the shop’s future on Park Street.
Grecoe’s daughter, Dawn Cote, who represents the third generation to own the business, said her family had a verbal agreement for another lease, but ultimately didn’t receive one and they were instead forced to move out in July.
But property manager Joe Ciampa said a lease offer was available, but the Grecoes weren’t forthcoming on finalizing the deal and were looking for other property, forcing him to issue an eviction notice, That eviction was actually delayed to give the family more time to move, he added.
While the move to 168 No. Main St. caused some concern, Cote said the business is actually better off in its new location.
For the first time, the shop has off-street parking, something that was a sought-after commodity in the heart of downtown. Cote said the new space is also brighter and more visible to traffic and passersby.
“My heart was in my stomach because we weren’t going to be downtown, but this was a perfect fit,” she said. “We don’t have as much space, but that’s OK because we downsized a few things.”
But Cote said while leaving downtown “has turned out to be a good move, for us,” there’s still a sense that “being an old business doesn’t mean anything anymore.
“I see the fluctuation of what goes in and out of downtown, and over the last several years, it was tough to make a living here,” she said.