Stop & Shop’s decision to close its store in Meriden’s Centennial Plaza has been met with disappointment — especially for residents of the west side and South Meriden — but also with hope that the city’s new west-side tax incentive program can spur economic activity, as the east-side program has done, by bringing new businesses and encouraging expansions.
It will be difficult, though, to replace the Stop & Shop, which is the largest store and therefore the anchor of the West Main Street plaza. While we are hopeful that a retailer will be found to take its place, the fact that this location “is not meeting financial expectations” for a company as big as Stop & Shop is not encouraging. The plaza has long struggled to fill its 85,000 square feet of retail space.
The gas pumps will also close. However, the company has said that its other Meriden store, at Broad and East Main streets, will remain open and will be remodeled starting this summer.
But that’s of little comfort to the many residents who now will have to drive farther for their groceries.
Former Deputy Mayor Laura M. Gallo, for one, has expressed disappointment with City Hall over this development.
“Who on the Meriden City Council is looking out for South Meriden residents?” she wrote in a letter to the Record-Journal. “You are forcing us to grocery shop outside of Meriden.”
Whether the council could have done anything to prevent this closure is a matter of conjecture. We don’t know how far short of Stop & Shops expectations the store was falling. Nor do we know what could have been done before the very recent west-side tax abatement plan was formulated. Or perhaps the city could have acted sooner on that front.
But consider the fate of what once was called the Meriden Parkade, at the opposite end of town. A succession of grocery stores, starting with Barker’s, were unable to prosper there. The former Lowe’s store remains empty. Nearby car dealerships have closed as well.
If big companies, with all their marketing expertise, have been unable to find success by putting a big store in a particular location, perhaps City Hall should take that fact into account and look for some other approach to filling that space.
Right now, the new west-side development plan seems like the place to start.