ROCKPORT — Speculation over whether or not Rockport's only grocery store would re-open for business after reportedly closing for "renovations" last month has effectively put to an end.

A letter from the Smith family, which owns the building that has housed Hildonen's IGA for some 37 years, indicates the property at 35 Whistlestop Mall is now available for rent.

The letter, affixed to the former IGA's front window, invites the public to offer its opinion on what type of enterprise should occupy the space.

"We recognize that over the last 37 years Rockport's grocery store has played a part to enhance the quality of life and convenience for us all. It saddens us to realize that such an important enterprise has now closed," the Smiths said in the letter. "We have begun to look at several possibilities to bring a high quality operation back to Whistlestop Mall, and we invite proposals from other qualified parties."

Reduced hours of operation, a cash-only sale with discounts of up to 50 percent, and the virtually bare shelves inside Hildonen's IGA earlier this year had raised questions throughout the community and spawned numerous rumors about the fate of the family-owned business and identity of potential buyers.

However, store manager Corey Hildonen maintained at the time that the market would be closed temporarily for "re-stocking" and "renovations."

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Jonathan L'Ecuyer can be reached at 978-283-7000 x 3451 or jlecuyer@gloucestertimes.com.

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