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Ocean State Job Lot Opens for Business
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
03:48PM / Saturday, August 24, 2013
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David Sarlitto, left, Steve Mangone of Honor Flight and Andrew Morehouse of the Food Bank.

Rep. Gailanne Cariddi presents a State House certificate to District Manager Jerry Ballard (white shirt).

Slider, who's always around.

Local groups and others, such as LaPierre Maple Farms, were offering samples and giveaways.

Ocean State executive Paul Conforti, left, Store Manager Scott Collett, Mayor Richard Alcombright, state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi and Councilors Marie Harpin and Lisa Blackmer cut the ribbon.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city's newest chain store, Ocean State Job Lot, held its grand opening on Saturday in the former Walmart building on Curran Highway.

"We're here today to thank our new community business partners Ocean State Job Lot for your investment, your confidence," said Mayor Richard Alcombright, before clipping the ribbon with an oversized set of scissors. "For the new products and services you bring here, and your commitment to our greater city and our great region."

This is the retailer's 110th store opening, said District Manager Jerry Ballard, who later greeted customers with Paul Conforti, another Ocean State executive. The store employs 30 full and part-time associates.   

The store's been open since the sign went up on Tuesday, but Saturday's morning event drew hundreds into the closeout retailer to shop for — as Conforti described — "everything from can openers to kayaks."

"As long as we can offer it to you at a great value, we'll sell it," he said. "Our buyers, and I'm not exaggerating here, will literally scour the planet for quality merchandise at unbeatable prices."

One patron, Eileen Kenyon, was more worried that the store wouldn't have what she wanted if she came back, quizzing Conforti on the chain's restocking method.

"We will do everything we can to reorder and get it back here for you," he assured her.

Kenyon, of Pittsfield, is the tip of the crowd North Berkshire is hoping to draw with the opening of not only Ocean State, but the Super Walmart down the road.

"It was so nice to pull up here this morning and see this parking lot full," said Berkshire County Chamber of Commerce President Michael Supranowicz. It's good for North Berkshire but development of retail also bodes well for the Berkshires overall, particularly with another, yet unknown, large scale retailer looking to open in Pittsfield, he said.

"We're drawing money from outside Berkshire County in and that's always a good thing," he said. "If more money comes into Berkshire County than comes out, that's called a retail draw."

Supranowicz sees stores like Ocean State and Super Walmart drawing customers from New York, Vermont, Connecticut and New Hampshire. That means more taxes to the state, more taxes available to back to local communities.

David Sarlitto, head of marketing for Ocean State, said the Rhode Island company is also concerned about what happens in its communities.

"This is a private organization and the owners feel very, very strongly we get to know who these customers are and what their needs are, not just what we can sell them," he said, punctuating his comments by pointing into the stores.

On hand Saturday was a tractor-trailer with 30,000 pounds of food headed for Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. The Ocean State Foundation Charitable Foundation the program within six months will send out 16 to 17 similar tractor-trailers to emergency food networks in New England. "I believe it is the largest private food donation program in New England," said Sarlitto, who had commented in an earlier interview that "food is a big deal with us. I don't think it's an overstatement to say we're experts on deals."

Tractor Supply is set to open in October in the same building. Marketing chief David Sarlitto said 'there is a list that's getting bigger' of interested parties for the third space.

"Given the support that we get from Oean State Job Lot, we get the food out to the local programs you all know of so they can get the food to your neighbors and friends," said Executive Director Andrew Morehouse. The program provides donations to both the Friendship Center pantry and Berkshire Food Project in North Adams. Morehouse said 13,000 Berkshire residents rely on the program.

The food donation was one of two charitable contributions on Saturday; the second was to the Honor Flight Network, which provides transportation to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., the fast depleting cadre of veterans, most of whom are well in their 80s.

Sarlitto said the company has been financing flights for a dozen or so veterans at a time. This September, it has chartered three Southwest Airlines flights from the region to bring veterans, their guardians and support staff, to the memorial and a recognition dinner in Washington with top brass, possibly including former general and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Vice President at Honor Flight New England Steve Mangone said the four-year-old nonprofit has had some tough times keeping afloat. If it wasn't for Ocean State's charitable foundation, "we would not be in operation. That's as simple as we can put it."

The morning events included face painting with Cinderella; tables with local organizations and products, including free tickets for the North Adams SteepleCats' 2014 and passes to Saturday night's showing of "Airplane at the Harriman-West Airport sponsored by Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art; drawings (including $200 shopping spree at Ocean State) and giveaways; an appearance by the Fire Department's 1941 restored fire truck; free food and product samples; and live remote broadcast by WUPE-FM's Cheryl Adams.

"It's interesting how you say you come and get a feel for your market, it looks like this market has come out and gotten a feel of you today," joked the mayor, gesturing to the packed parking lot. State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi also presented a welcome from the House, and spoke of her own enjoyment in shopping at the chain.

Sarlitto said earlier this week the company thought it was a good match for North Adams, which he described as a little bit quirky, eclectic and charming. "Those are the three words often used to describe us," he laughed.

The 40,000 square foot space occupies the main entrance and righthand side of the building, offering wide aisles and fully stocked shelves of general and specialty items, such as Bob's Red Mill baking goods and U-Don noodles, oriental rugs, cleaning supplies, clothing and pet products.

"I liked it very much," said Kenyon afterward. "We didn't bring a lot of money, but even we did, I don't think we could have gotten everything we wanted. ... I was very impressed."


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