It was encouraging last week to learn that, eve within a few days of its online posting, roughly 1,000 people had already taken the time to fill complete a survey promoted by Rockport Whistlestop Mall property owner Jay Smith to glean residents’ input regarding their wants, dislikes, hopes and dreams for a new local grocery story.
Indeed, it’s also encouraging that Smith is reaching out to residents again to get a sense of what they want, and how they would see the town’s and residents’ grocery needs. And the fact that so many folks had already spoken up suggests that need is great.
The fact is, it’s coming up on two years since the Hildonen family – all the while telling customers they were just closing for “renovations” — shut down the store as many had feared in January 2011. That’s not only been a long stretch for Smith without a key tenant, it’s been a difficult stretch for many Rockport residents and for the town as a whole, who have had to come to grips with not having any viable local grocery store.
Smith noted that the online aspect of the survey – which can be found at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HSZV637 — allows him to reach out not just to Rockporters, but to residents across Cape Ann and beyond, no doubt including some who, given the opportunity, might well want to stop at a local grocery store while heading into or out of town for a day or two. Also, the survey should give Smith and a prospective tenant an idea of what type of store residents really want, including what they consider as price ranges and other priorities.
Town officials and residents have already shown they’re willing to work with Smith to bring in a tenant through their backing of an alcohol sales permit for a local grocery store, and that may well open the door to new store operators who might not have wanted to move in otherwise.
Let’s hope this survey also helps clarify the economic and market picture so that Smith can help address what clearly remains a significant Rockport vacancy – and one that addresses a clear community need.