Stop & Shop plans to move into the supermarket space occupied for decades by Market Basket in Shawsheen Plaza on North Main Street, confirming a rumor that has circulated for years.
The move is expected in two years, when Market Basket's lease expires.
Stop & Shop made the announcement late Monday, Feb. 23, in response to numerous inquiries from the Townsman. Stop & Shop is headquartered in Quincy and questions about the company coming to Andover were directed to its real estate office in New York.
"Stop & Shop holds the master lease to the shopping center. Market Basket is a tenant; their lease expires in 2011. We intend to open a Stop & Shop supermarket and we look forward to serving the Andover community," read an e-mail statement from the supermarket's real estate division that was provided by a New York public relations firm.
Town Manager Buzz Stapcynski has known about the move for about two months, he said. A facilities spokesman from Stop & Shop called him with the news.
"I'm happy and sad about it," he said. "I'm sad because the DeMoulas (Market Basket owner) family has a long connection to town. But Stop & Shop is a good company and we welcome them."
"I'll miss the prices," said Stapczynski, picking up a Market Basket motto: "You get more for your dollar."
State Rep. Barry Finegold (D-Andover) also said feelings among shoppers are bound to be bittersweet.
"Market Basket is an easy supermarket to get to know, like I know the potato chips are in aisle six and the deli line is always long," said Finegold who handles the weekly grocery shopping for his family on Saturday morning. "Of course, it's great to have a new business in town, but it will be sad to see Market Basket go. Many local folks are upset."
Stapcynski said the new store will not be supersized, as the North Andover Stop & Shop on Route 114 is.
"Zoning will not allow it," he said.
Market Basket, which is headquartered in Tewksbury, did not return telephone calls about the lease expiration. Their Andover store has been located on North Main Street for at least 37 years, according to the Andover Historical Society. Town officials said they do not know if Market Basket customers can look forward to another location for a local store, such as the soon-to-be vacant Shaw's supermarket on Route 28 just over the Andover line into North Reading. Shaw's announced its closing a few months ago.
The North Reading assessor's office said the Shaw's plaza at 271 Main St. in North Reading is owned by a realty company in Maryland.
Residents will see more than Market Basket leave Shawsheen Plaza in the next two years. Card Smart is the first to leave. Its "store closing" sign has been up for two weeks and employees tell customers the store is closing in May.
"There are going to be lots of changes at the plaza and downtown," Finegold said. "It's just the way it is right now."
However, other stores intend to remain. A Marshall's spokeswoman at the headquarters in Framingham said it has no plans to close its Andover store in Shawsheen Plaza. Andover Liquors owner Bob Gilbert of Andover said his store is not closing.
The prospect of change at Shawsheen Plaza has been looming for months since Andover's largest shopping plaza was sold on Oct. 7, 2008. The Guys of Andover LLC of Loring Avenue in Salem, Mass. bought 199 and 209 North Main St., which is the entire plaza property, for $12.7 million, according to real estate documents from the Registry of Deeds Northern Essex District.
Assessment records on file in the town's assessor's office show the retail chunk from Marshall's to Best Cleaners, which also includes Market Basket, a Citizen's Bank branch, Andover Liquors, Rite Aid and Card Smart, totals about 12.6 acres. The parking lot at the plaza is another 1.6 acres.
The other chunk of retail space at 199 North Main St. includes Papa Gino's, Radio Shack, Sweet Basil and other retailers.
The Guys of Andover also own 207 North Main St., home to Grassfield's restaurant and a carpet and tile store.
There is no listed phone number to contact The Guys of Andover in Salem.
Here is the official statement from the Stop & Shop real estate division, supplied by Peter Hamilton, Senior Vice President, Rubenstein Associates, a public relations firm in New York City:
"Stop & Shop holds the master lease to the shopping center. Market Basket is a tenant; their lease expires in 2011. We intend to open a Stop & Shop supermarket and we look forward to serving the Andover community. We have had a preliminary conversation with the town regarding the center and plan to meet with the Town Supervisor and Economic Development officer in the near future to discuss our plans for the shopping center."