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Big Y to close one of two supermarkets in South Hadley

The Springfield supermarket chain is moving ahead with plans to close its Big Y World Class Market on Newton Street at the intersection of Routes 33 and 116, effective Saturday, Feb. 9. A newer store at 44 Willimansett St., closer to the town’s border with Chicopee, will remain open.

Meanwhile, the pharmacy in the 501 Newton St. store will close Saturday, Jan. 19, so that all prescriptions will automatically be transferred to the Willimansett Street branch by Monday, Jan. 21. Pharmacy staff will be available at both places to assist in the transition.

Company officials made the decision to consolidate in South Hadley a year before Big Y’s lease for the Newton Street store is set to expire, following a long-term market analysis that included customers’ shopping patterns.

“I think our customers get it, that it was a lot of duplication, and they are on board,” said Claire D’Amour-Daley, vice president of corporate communications.

About three-fourths of the store’s roughly 100 employees have been placed in other stores in the region, with a majority of those employees heading up Route 116 to work at the Big Y at 44 Willimansett St.

D’Amour-Daley said 27 of 29 full-time employees have been placed, as have 50 of about 75 part-time employees. The company is expecting layoffs, though D’Amour-Daley could not say how many would lose their jobs,

“It’s still fluid at this point,” she said.

The company is helping with job searches and financial counseling services for employees affected by the change, according to a press release.

“It is always difficult to close a store,” Charles L. D’Amour, Big Y president and chief operating officer, said in the press release. “We appreciate all of the help and support from our Newton Street employee team, along with our loyal customers who loved shopping there.”

The company anticipates business will increase at the Willimansett Street store, which opened in 1997 and recently completed a $1 million renovation that included an expansion and equipment replacement.

Big Y bought the Newton Street store in 2003 from A&P/Super Food Mart. That store is the anchor tenant in the shopping center that includes Dunkin’ Donuts, Rocky’s Ace Hardware, Friendly’s and other businesses.

D’Amour-Daley said the store and pharmacy were doing well, but the company’s decision is based on a long-term analysis. She said consolidating to Willimansett Street made sense for a variety of reasons. In addition to the renovation, the store was custom-built as a Big Y World Class Supermarket, is newer and comes with a longer lease.

Big Y has renovated the Newton Street store in the past, but officials decided not to pay the increased lease amount for a building that doesn’t match its other stores.

“The facility itself is not built as a Big Y so it’s really not our style,” D’Amour-Daley said.

She said Big Y jumped at the chance to buy the store a decade ago from A&P, but the number of supermarkets within a 5-mile radius has risen dramatically since then. Several grocery stores in Chicopee, Holyoke and Amherst have all expanded in the last 10 years.

“When we looked at the entire landscape long-term,” she said, “it makes more sense to do this now than to wait until the lease expires.”

Big Y is one of the largest independent supermarket chains in New England, with 64 stores in Connecticut and Massachusetts and more than 10,000 employees. The chain operates several other stores in Hampshire County, including ones in Northampton, Southampton and Amherst.

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