Stop & Shop Versus Market Basket, Gloucester Crossing

Recently I read an editorial response, which stated we who were opposed to the development of Gloucester Crossing, in Gloucester, were the very same people who were now frequenting the mall. After reading these false suppositions, I decided to share my supermarket comparison data (survey done October 11 through October 13, 2009) with you. I opposed the Gloucester Crossing shopping mall (see “In the Wake of Godzilla”). For my readers who do not live on Cape Ann, but in the greater Boston area, you may be interested to know what were the results of my survey. I have nothing against Market Basket or its employees, however, I will not shop at Gloucester Crossing because of the illegal and unnecessary destruction of the vernal pond and because the developer held the city hostage for over a year at his insistence that a traffic light at the rotary be built for his shopper’s convenience (fortunately, he lost). Over and over again it was ballyhooed that we desperately needed a Market Basket, because their prices were that much cheaper.

I have been to Market Basket in Gloucester once and the Market Basket in Danvers once. Both trips were made a soon after the Market Basket, Gloucester, had its grand opening. The purpose of my visit to both Market Baskets was to compare the price of items I purchase for my family on a regular basis. During that same week I also brought my data sheets with me to Stop & Shop, Gloucester, and to the Shaw’s on Eastern Avenue in Gloucester. I wanted to find out for myself if indeed there were the terrific savings to be had at Market Basket, as had been touted by Market Basket’s publicity.

My list is primarily based on staples such as flour, milk, sugar, jam, yogurt, oats, olive oil, etc. I had to eliminate some items entirely, for example, Kate’s Homemade unsalted butter, because only Shaw’s regularly carries Kate’s unsalted. Please note that very little produce is included. When I conducted the survey, it was early October and we were still purchasing fruits, vegetables, and fish from the local farmer’s markets.

I am curious as to what are the pay packages and employee benefits offered by the three competitors. I haven’t gotten that far in my research. But let’s suppose, as I have heard, that Stop & Shop offers more stability and better employee benefits. Is the purported savings from shopping at Market Basket worthwhile if your neighbor working at Stop & Shop is paid a bit better? Is it worth it if the Marshalls at the mall places the small businesses on Main Street in jeopardy or worse, out of business? Is the purported savings worth destroying a vernal pond? I urge everyone to do their own comparison shopping with their own grocery needs in mind. What is offered as fact is often fiction.

If you believed all that was advertised, then my results will astound you. Adding only items both Market Basket and Stop and Shop stocked the day I investigated, Market Basket, Gloucester ($108.32) was 42 cents higher than Stop and Shop ($107.90).

Here are my general impressions from that first week of comparison shopping. Market Basket, Gloucester was clean and shiny and new. Of the four grocery stores I visited, the managers at Market Basket, Gloucester, were the only ones that were seemingly threatened that I had a pad and pencil in hand and was jotting down notes. I was approached and questioned. There was a plethora of employees wanting to serve at every turn. Market Basket, Danvers, was filthy, especially the restroom. (Clean restrooms are an important issue, especially when shopping with young children.) The employees working the register and behind the counters were painfully and obviously miserable and disgruntled. Shaw’s, Gloucester, was the most expensive of all. The cleanliness of the restroom was average to poor, and generally very shabby. The organic section is in one area of the store, which makes it easy to run in and out. Stop and Shop’s organic section is also in one place, and the restrooms were clean. Shaw’s and Stop & Shop both provide helpful and friendly service.

The most accurate way to judge would be to add the weekly averages over many months and then divide by the same amount of weeks. I don’t have time for that at the present, but I hope to find the time to revisit all four stores again. I am also very interested to find out about employee pay and benefits for all chains. In the mean time, I will continue to shop at Stop & Shop, Gloucester and Whole Foods, Cambridge, occasionally running into Shaw’s for Kate’s unsalted butter.


I agreed with what my friend Gordon Baird  wrote about Gloucester Crossing in a recent letter to the Gloucester Daily Times.  His letter inspired me to write a letter to the GDTimes editor, but mine has  yet to be published…

Gloucester Daily Times: Fishtown Local

Change for Change’s Sake

Gordon Baird

I am here today to take great exception to the ridiculous assertions of Paul York in his letter, “Necessity the mother of change.”

He states that the people who fought and found fault with the new shopping center “are the ones using it all the time.” In fact, he says, “they are the first to take advantage” of the change they so long opposed.

What a load of malarky — on several fronts.

First and foremost: How does he know? Did he stake out the neighborhood meetings that opposed it and then document those same folks rushing into the mall? Did he call and poll the publicly-declared opponents as to their use? No, he didn’t, but I did.

Of the seven vociferous foes of Gloucester Crossing that I called, a grand total of one trip had been made to it among all of them, and that was a last-second decision based on time. While happy that many pro-mall people have been able to use the new facility, I have not entered the grounds and neither have many other former foes.

Sorry, Walt Disney, but your Fantasyland assertion is all in your head. So let’s play Mr. York’s game of impugning values and actions based on my own silly predispositions. Let’s see … sure sounds like Mr. York is a Republican from the way he talks in his letter … he’s pro-business … he’s sure that people who would oppose a cut-through road to Rockport would be the first to use it.

Well, moving a step further: have you ever noticed how every Republican you meet characterizes himself as a moderate or an “independent” — even before Scott Brown.

There are only far left Democrats and Republican moderates to them. They talk and vote like Republicans but they think of themselves as moderates. Of course, because anyone who opposes them is a lefty extremist in their eyes.

That’s just like mall opponents who many people blasphemed at the time for speaking out their opinions. But, remember, Mr. York, the mall opponents got the city a way better deal on the TIF. That tax payment on the missed hotel deadline didn’t feel so bad this year, did it? Perhaps, nor will the next one.

But I just returned from a little foray out into the hinterlands of George Bush’s America. Even in jumping Boulder, Colo., in ski season and the college full, the effects of Bush’s recession are devastating.

There is no one on the Boulder mall. The shops who haven’t folded are selling at 70 percent off. The depression is in their heads as much as on the streets.

And have you been down on Main Street, Gloucester, lately? This must be the kind of change York was referring to. Things seemed fine the way they were, but change for change’s sake is fine with some people.

Since he brought it up: how’s that 128 extension with no traffic light working out? Did we really need that light out there? Has it been that big a hassle getting by there? Not for me, I’ve only encountered four cars exiting the mall and entering the extension there and we all behaved as designed.

Hey, the majority ruled on the mall. Good luck to ’em. But the opponents didn’t rush right in, nor do they have to. In fact, from what I hear, after the initial rush, the Market Basket cashiers have been less than overwhelmed by the turnout, so perhaps those former mall opponents aren’t rushing in there after all.

I like tailoring reality to back up my pet personal theories, too.

Gloucester resident Gordon Baird is co-founder of Billboard’s Musician Magazine and the West End Theater, and is producer of the “Gloucester Chicken Shack” TV show.

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