Charlestown residents have mixed reactions following last week’s announcement that Johnny’s Foodmaster will close at the end of November after signing an agreement with Whole Foods to take over the lease at the Charlestown store and five other Foodmaster locations.
The upscale grocery chain spokesperson said the Charlestown Foodmaster along with the five other stores will close at the end of November to begin renovations and reopen as Whole Foods sometime before the end of next year.
Christine Copithorn, a lifelong Charlestown resident and a Johnny’s customer for 26 years, is concerned about elderly residents.
“Everybody’s up in arms about it because we only have one supermarket. It’s going to be really difficult for the elderly like my grandmother because they don’t have anyone to take them somewhere to get groceries. We’ll have to take two busses just to get to Stop and Shop,” said Copithorn.
Several other residents echoed concerns about the elderly.
“My grandmother is very upset. She doesn’t know anything about organic food. Whole Foods won’t open for a year so what’s my grandmother and the elderly supposed to do,” asked Pamela Millspaugh.
Bill Stella and Francis Wiemert who were enjoying an afternoon sitting on a bench outside of the Foodmaster and each of whom have lived in Charlestown for over 70 years, feel strongly that the older residents will feel the negative effect.
“I’m concerned about the elderly. Young people have disposable income. The elderly are on fixed incomes. I understand the prices are higher at Whole Foods,” said Stella.
Other residents are worried about workers losing their jobs.
“My main concern is the people who work here. One woman who works at another location said to me they’re never going to hire me at 72,” said Maggie Nolan.
Whole Foods said it is committed to hiring as many Foodmaster employees as possible and says it will give interviews to employees at all six locations.
A Foodmaster cashier, who asked not be identified, said there is a meeting with Whole Foods next Monday to set up interviews. The cashier, a lifelong Charlestown resident, has already begun looking for a job.
Several residents said they enjoy shopping at Whole Foods because of the high quality of the products.
Chris, a young mother who didn’t want to give her last name and has lived in Charlestown for about eight years, is happy to see Whole Foods come to the neighborhood.
“I love Whole Foods. I shop at the one on Cambridge Street. I like the food much better.”
Another longtime resident, Ann Murphy, called the decision bittersweet.
“I have shopped at Johnnies for a long time and have been happy with the service and selection. So I’m sorry to see it close. But I also shop at Whole Foods so I am pleased that there will one in the neighborhood,” said Murphy.
Several residents said when Whole Foods moves into a neighborhood, property values also increase.
“My realtor told me it’s the Whole Foods effect and that will be positive for the community,” said resident Carl Eldredge who grew up on the south shore. “But the price of groceries will be negative for some of the longtime Charlestown residents.”
Some younger residents like John Griffin, originally from West Roxbury, says he likes to shop at Whole Foods but he’s torn.
“I like Whole Foods, I shop at Whole Foods but I think it will be tough for people that Whole Foods might be price prohibitive for,” said Griffin.
A spokesperson for Johnny’s Foodmaster did not return a request for comment.
John DeJesus, president of Johnnie’s Foodmaster said in a press release at the time of the announcement, “To have the opportunity to sell to a company like Whole Foods Market has made a tough decision much easier. I know that my employees and our loyal customers are in the best hands, and that the communities will benefit greatly from the product selection and shopping experience that Whole Foods Market offers.”
The original Johnny’s Foodmaster opened in 1947 in East Cambridge and has since become one of the most successful family owned grocery chains in Massachusetts.