After 44 years at Shawsheen Plaza, Market Basket has less than a month left in Andover.
The supermarket that has served and employed generations of Andover shoppers and family members will close Saturday, June 26, as its lease expires on June 30.
A few months of renovation work by Stop & Shop will follow as that larger supermarket chain plans to open a store there in early October 2010.
"It's not a happy day for us," said David McLean, operations manager for Market Basket headquarters in Tewksbury. "It's been an honor to be in Andover."
The Demoulas family owns the supermarket chain and has a long affiliation with Andover. According to the company's website, Telemachus "Mike" Demoulas and his brother George bought the supermarket chain from their parents in 1954. Their Andover store opened in 1966 and the business has grown to 60 Market Basket supermarkets.
Mike Demoulas died in 2003 at age 82 and is buried in Andover. He was the sole head of the supermarket chain for years after George Demoulas died of a heart attack in 1971 while vacationing in Greece.
"We are preparing (for the closing) and right now we are most concerned about our employees," McLean said.
There are about 100 employees and the company is offering each of them a job at another Market Basket store, McLean said.
"There are no layoffs," he said. "We are taking care of our employees."
The company will mail a goodbye letter to local customers to thank them for their business, he said.
Market Basket in Andover was a smaller-sized supermarket when compared to today's more popular super-sized supermarkets. McLean said that was part of its appeal.
"Our Andover store had that country charm feel," McLean said. "It was like a village, generations of families shopped and worked there."
McLean said Market Basket never had the chance to renew its lease after Shawsheen Plaza was sold in 2008. The Guys of Andover LLC of Salem, Mass., bought the plaza for $12.7 million, according to the Registry of Deeds Northern Essex District. Stop & Shop now holds the master lease to the entire shopping center.
It's a much happier mood at the Quincy-based Stop & Shop as they are eager to start renovations. Spokesman Bob LaRochelle said the new store in Andover is a project on the fast track.
"We're anxious to get in there, spruce it up inside and outside, get some new signage and do this as quickly as we can," LaRochelle said. "It usually takes six months, but we want to expedite this project and get it on the fast track."
Work is scheduled to begin by July 15 and the renovation will not expand the store. Town zoning laws will not allow that.
LaRochelle said none of the other tenants at the plaza have been asked to vacate and his company is pushing for an early October opening for its grocery store.
He said the company got to know its future shoppers at last fall's Andover Day event as Stop & Shop was a key sponsor.
"We got a great reception from Andover residents at Andover Day," LaRochelle said. "We look forward to our Andover opening."
Stop & Shop will once again be a key sponsor at this year's Andover Day event set for Saturday, Sept. 25.
IN THE BAG, both ends of town
Grocery shoppers on Andover's south side neighborhoods - off South Main Street (Route 28), near the North Reading border - will soon have two Stop & Shop grocery stores to choose from. Stop & Shop is moving its Route 28 store in North Reading closer to Andover.
The store will be located at the former Shaw's supermarket, in the strip mall just over the Andover town line in North Reading, according to company spokesman Bob LaRochelle. He said it's a "better location, with more traffic."
Stop & Shop's current location on Route 28 in North Reading will be converted into retail space, he said.