Community effort nourishes the soul

This Saturday, Feb. 25, will mark the end of an era. The Grand Union supermarket, technically a GU Market, will shut its doors for the last time.

There have been plenty of critics of the Grand Union during its time. The store was at times called shabby, but it nonetheless served a very important purpose — feeding village residents — many of whom couldn’t drive elsewhere for their groceries.

It will be missed. It might not have been a glamorous store, but it was a friendly one. It was well known for those who worked there. From the cashiers to the manager, many who worked at the Grand Union were considered friends by their customers. 

Some employees worked there for years and years. Cheryl, a cashier, was there for nearly 18. Brian, the manager, was there for more than six. Another was there for 13 years. The list goes on. All told, 25 workers were employed by C&S Wholesale Grocers, the corporation behind Grand Union.

It’s too bad that things had to end this way. Did things need to change? Yes. There were undeniably issues with the store.

In fact, some community members were so disenchanted with the Grand Union that they all but cheered when Southern Realty Development (SRD) began an application with the Planning Board a number of years ago. The plan? To construct a 36,000-square foot supermarket next  to Thompson Plaza, on Route 44 heading east toward the Connecticut border. The rumor was that the store would have been a Hannaford, though that was never confirmed by the developer.

Those plans have since fizzled out. Though the application was before the town for years, SRD failed to show the last time it was on the Planning Board’s agenda, back in July of 2016. Calls to SRD principal John Joseph about any future plans have gone unanswered. But at the moment, it appears hopes for a brand-new supermarket have been dashed. 

Now, it seems, Sharon Farm Market, from nearby Sharon, Conn., will open a store at the GU site. That’s welcome news, as the prospect of no supermarket in a village as popular as Millerton was widely feared, especially by those who don’t drive. How, many wondered, would they get to markets in Amenia, Pine Plains or Connecticut to shop? 

The North East Community Center helped answer that question. Thanks to the prodding of Millerton residents Louise Black and Mary Howard, who do drive and have access to other markets, worries about pedestrian shoppers were answered. NECC, with Black, Howard and other volunteers, came up with a solution — the Grocery Bus — to take shoppers from Millerton to Amenia’s Freshtown.

Though Sharon Farm Market announced it will set up its new shop soon, the Grocery Bus will nonetheless operate as long as it’s needed, running twice a week, two times a day.                                                      

All of this signals a community coming together: a local business stepping in where there’s a very real need, volunteers concerning themselves with the welfare of others and a community organization putting into action the best solution to a nagging problem. It’s a great example of why living in the Tri-state region is so special.

In the meantime, we wish everyone at the GU Market well and hope to see many of their faces once again when the new supermarket opens. 

We also wish Sharon Farm Market success. Its owners are taking a chance on Millerton,  and they deserve the community’s support.

Although no one knows what this next chapter will bring for Millerton, we do know that when one door closes, typically, another door opens. Let’s hope that new doorway leads to great things for everyone.