Market Basket closes in town

Less than two days after the official closing of Andover's oldest grocery store, the red Market Basket sign was gone and the once popular shop was eerily empty. Signs thanking Andover patrons for 44 years of service hung in the windows and the notoriously congested parking lot was quiet. A piece of Andover history had moved out to make way for a brand new Andover business.

Stop & Shop now owns most of Shawsheen Plaza, the shopping mall off Route 28 near the Washington Park condominiums and the Shawsheen River. Market Basket was not asked to renew its lease, which expired yesterday, June 30. Stop & Shop will move in after renovating the space, and its new store is expected to be open by Oct. 15.

David McLean, who handles public relations for Market Basket, said the store's last day in Andover, Saturday, June 26, "was as good as it could be."

"We just want our customers to know that we look forward to seeing them in our other stores," McLean said.

He hosted a few "walk-arounds" for customers who asked. Some local shoppers have been shopping there since the Andover store opened in 1966.

Market Basket shelves have been half-empty for weeks. There had been no ice cream for the past two weeks while just six half-gallons of milk were in a dairy case late in the afternoon on closing day. Non-perishable goods, like cereal, pasta and condiments, were somewhat more plentiful.

Few shoppers visited on closing day and workers said the low inventory was probably why. Those who did shop had mostly food staples in their bags.

"It's like losing a friend," grocery shopper Jennie Jeong of west Andover said just before the store closed at 6 p.m. "I'm not sure why, but I just always liked coming here."

For shopper Ron Galiazo of Crescent Drive, the convenience is what he'll miss most.

"I live close so that's what means the most," he said.

Longtime manager of the Andover Market Basket, Ron Savage, came out of his recent retirement to bid farewell to Andover shoppers. Dressed in a purple dress shirt and tie, he shook hands and small-talked on what he called a "very sad day."

"I was here for 25 years," he said. "I wanted to be here to say good-bye."

Savage said it was not only difficult to say goodbye to customers, but the staff is "like a family."

"We will never all be together again," he said.

The store's 100 workers were offered jobs at other Market Baskets. Former Andover store manager Mike Norton has been reassigned to the North Andover store.

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