ADAMS, Mass. — Adam's Hometown Market opened to a welcoming crowd on Friday morning.
A month ago, the grocery store's aisles were empty and shelves bare as Big Y ended its tenure. In just 18 days, the Connecticut grocery chain had stepped, freshened the entire building, hired many of the former workers and filled the store with new products.
"Welcome back," one woman called out to employees as customers clustered around the deli counter.
It was 50 years and a month from when the building had first opened as Adams Supermarket, just the latest in the Wineberg's family grocery chain that proudly bore the town's name.
It was, state Rep. John Barrett III, a little like "deja vu all over again."
"This is the most remarkable project I've ever dealt with in all my years in public service," the former longtime North Adams mayor said during remarks before the store's opening.
Community leaders, market representatives, an honor guard of veterans who raised the flag and more than 100 eager shoppers stood in the light rain on Friday morning to celebrate the opening. Above them was a banner proclaiming the store's new name and ownership, a temporary fix until the new sign can be installed.
Russ Greenlaw, vice president of operations, said the town's welcome had been remarkable. Residents were waving down cars with Connecticut plates asking them if they were involved in the project; Adams' businesses have now become friends.
"This has been a very overwhelming experience for us," he said. "We sat down as a team and said we have three goals. The first one was going to happen no matter what because we made a pledge to the town of Adams that we were going to do everything we could to get this store open by the 29th and gosh darnit, we did it."
The other goals were in welcoming the chain's newest family members and thanking community friends.
The new grocer wasn't a done deal, said Selectmen Chairman John Duval.
"He questioned us ... he wanted to make sure that this community was a growing community, a progressive community and a welcoming community," he said of Greenlaw. "I think we gave him some good information ... I think that lead to the opening we have today."
Greenlaw confirmed that the company had conversations with the state and local officials and with 1Berkshire representatives on the economy and community of Adams. He credited the Selectmen and particularly Barrett for being instrumental in helping the chain's officers in making project happen.
"We're a small company and we have to be very, very careful of our decisions and your municipal leaders, all of you, changed our minds very, very quickly and inspired us in a big way," he said.
Perhaps the kicker was the name though: Duval said, "he mentioned the name of the store and it just knocked me off my seat."
Greenlaw joked he thought he'd have to ask Duval to change the name of the town but it worked out.
Town officials are hoping this will be a turning point in the town's fortunes: announcements are expected soon on the Greylock Glen development; the Town Common is about to undergo a renovation, and Route 8 south from the common is being redone. Plus, the town has a new administrator after more than a year with an interim.
"Let this project stand as a beacon that Adams is open for business and let this project stand further as an example that today begins a new chapter in Adams' history," said the new Town Administrator Jay Green. "A chapter filled with positivity and optimism, working together such as this project, the future is only bright for this town."
The first 200 shoppers were gifted with a reusable bag filled with coupons and food. Costumers browsed the widened aisles and greeted friends and employees. Near the checkouts, a collage of images from when the store opened fresh and new hung from the ceiling.
"I love the store and they've got a lot of gluten free stuff," said Albina Graziani, who'd worked at the former North Adams Hospital for 43 years. She'd usually shopped at the Adams Big Y and sometimes in North Adams.
"It's about time," said Dot Pelletier, who also liked the layout and look. "Oh yeah, we don't have to go to Pittsfield. That's where we've been going. I just live up the street so this is a big thing you know."
She smiled, pointing to her cart, "I come in for potatoes and already I'm filling it up."
Eugene Michaelanko said he liked the new look, the aesthetics and the graphics.
"It's great to be back shopping here. It's been my store for I don't know how long and I'm glad it's still here," he said. "I hated going to the Walmart and the Big Y in North Adams and I'm glad it's here."
Store Manager Robert Pytko credited the "hard-working and dedicated folks behind these doors" for making the opening happen. A resident of Adams, he noted he was living here and raising his family here.
"Adam's Hometown Market is all about community, it's all about local," he said. "It's about fresh, it's all about service, it's all about making sure you can focus on the things that matter to you."
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