GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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May 23, 2013

License vote doesn't speed Rockport grocery store

ROCKPORT — Crosby’s is in Manchester, Essex has the Marlin Market and the Schooner Market, while Gloucester has a host of chain grocery stores.

Rockporters, however, are still hungry for a supermarket. And weeks after town voters gave their final stamp of approval to issuing a single license for a would-be grocer to sell beer and wine, there remains no grocery store in sight.

While the one license, to be issued by the Board of Selectmen, can be issued to any grocery store, many have pointed to the Whistlestop Mall, which housed the former IGA market as a possible spot.

The former grocer closed its doors in Rockport in January 2011.

Crosby’s Marketplace was rumored to be considering expanding to Rockport, citing preliminary talks among Crosby’s management at the time; that hasn’t materialized.

“There’s still nothing concrete,” Whistlestop Mall owner Jay Smith said Wednesday.

Smith added that there had been some preliminary discussions, but would not say what company — or companies — are expressing interest in the site.

Beyond the Cape Ann Tool Company site or any other issue facing Rockport, Selectman Paul Murphy said the lack of a grocer is the biggest problem facing the town.

“It’s an embarrassment we have to drive to Gloucester,” he said.

While Murphy said officials have been in contact with the Smith family since IGA left, there is only so much the town can do.

Murphy, as others have pointed out, the Whistlestop Mall site would be the most practical, rather than a grocer buying, leasing, or building on any newly acquired land.

“We need to have a supermarket, sooner rather than later,” he said.

Lana Razdan, who chairs the town’s Economic Development Committee, said that panel is ready to join the push.

“We are ready to help once initial negotiations begin,” Razdan said.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.

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