Duffy Family Watches as Local History is Taken Down

January 25, 2018
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By Seth Daniel

As block after block came down recently on the Duffy building in the 500th block of Main Street, the family said it was a sad moment for the long-time business that operated for decades in various locations throughout the Town.

“It was definitely hard to see,” said Chris Duffy, a partner in the business, which officially moved to Chelsea  in 2016. “It was sad to see. We’ve been there since 1979 and my grandfather started the business in his basement in Charlestown in 1941. You have to make way for change. It is what it is. We probably had no business being there the last 10 to 15 years with the property values what they are. You can rent industrial space for pretty low prices now. It is what it is. Both of my parents’ families go back in Charlestown to the 1800s. You get to know everybody and see a lot of change.”

Chris Duffy said they did look for a place in Charlestown, but nothing panned out.

“We did look for other places in Charlestown to relocate, but there really was no place to go,” he said. “We had one possibility in the Industrial Park, but it didn’t pan out.”

James J. Duffy started his convenience store wholesale supply company in 1941 out of his basement after having worked for another wholesale company on Chelsea Street.

They soon began distributing to convenience stores all over Eastern Massachusetts, from Worcester to Boston and New Bedford to Danvers. They supplied everything from beauty products to food to cigarettes. They had locations across the street at one time, and in other buildings around the area too. They had moved into their building on Main Street in 1979.

George Duffy soon took over the business from his father, and married into the McCarthy family – which operates the liquor store. While they didn’t have a lot of employees, Chris Duffy said that many people in Charlestown picked up second jobs or part-time jobs with them over the years.

In recent years, Chris, Pat and David Duffy took over the business.

It had remained an institution in the Town for decades, but Chris Duffy said in 2016 they decided to move to Chelsea near the Produce Center on Beacham Street.

There, Chris and David allied with two other business partners, and the move has actually been very good for the business.

“The business is really growing,” he said. “We’ve done so well since we moved over here that we’re actually looking for another building and thinking about expanding to New Hampshire. We’re operating six trucks now in our territory. It’s been a good move for us.”

But as the business grows in Chelsea, their hearts will remain on Main Street.

“I’ll still be around,” said Chris. “I’m a member of the 520 Club and I’ll be there a lot. Plus, as I said, our families go back to the 1800s here.”