, Gloucester, MA


July 22, 2013

Fishtown Local: The Gloucester food wars

We all read with interest the articles last week about the Supermarket Wars burning through the DeMoulas family tree of the Market Basket Grocery store chain.

I guess Arthur S. DeMoulas isn’t happy with Arthur T. DeMoulas, but there’s room for debate within the court of the two King Arthurs about who’s the real champion of the round table.

But while the pair of jousting Arthurs fight it out up the line, here at home, the more relevant supermarket wars have been going on for two years now, since Market Basket roiled the local food scene shop-a-thon at Sam Park’s mall.

Clearly the best tenant the mall could have signed, it instantly catapulted Gloucester Crossing into major shopping relevancy. The place was packed from the start. Cash register lanes, crammed with customers, some themselves pretty large, pushing huge cartloads of food — sometimes more than one cart, too, and wearing smiles that reflected some often very much lower prices, as is DeMoulas’s wont.

In supermarket wars, usually the battle is won “on the ground” — that is, people vote with their feet. People can talk all they want about intentions, but it’s where they walk in the door that counts.

Market Basket can be a madhouse, so the other stores still pull in their share of business. But it’s not like it used to be.

Some food shoppers are dyed-in-the-wool committed to stores they’ve been going to for years . . . they’re in the habit, so to speak. Your feet walk right to the peanut butter aisle because that’s where it’ s always been, then cheese, bread, etc. in their order. Some make their choice because of location, closeness and ease. But some people pick their market because they are completely wide open, their own personal supermarket — like that “Seinfeld” episode, when Kramer sponsors the piece of highway and paints out the lines to give the drivers extra room to drive all over your lane, as squishy as you please.

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