Shaw's to close Diamond Hill location

Shaw's to close Diamond Hill location

Officials say they're working to attract a new supermarket

WOONSOCKET - In an announcement that many feel has become all too common, Shaw's supermarket officials have declared they'll close their Diamond Hill Road store by Aug. 1.

The grocery store has been located at Walnut Hill Plaza since the 1980s, in a lot historically occupied by a variety of grocers over the years. The building once housed a "Big D" and Economic Development Director Matthew Wojcik said he believes Stop & Shop also had a stint in the plaza.

The store's departure brings the number of full-scale grocers in Woonsocket down to one, leaving Price Rite as the last supermarket within city borders.

The Diamond Hill Road area has been in steady decline since 2011, when Walmart announced that it would be moving to Dowling Village in North Smithfield. Businesses that have left the retail center in recent years include CVS, Fashion Bug, Lowe's Home Improvement, Staples, and more recently, Pizza Hut.

Shaw's will close the Woonsocket store, along with a second Rhode Island location in Westerly, and a handful of Massachusetts stores, on Aug. 3. Shaw's will be closing locations in Fall River, Fairhaven, Stoughton and Taunton. Last year it left its Attleboro location.

"The stores identified have not been profitable for quite some time," explained Shaw's spokesperson Steven Sylven. "Despite the best efforts of the company and our associates, we have not been able to reposition them to better compete in the marketplace and don't anticipate being able to change this trend.

"While the decision to close a store is always difficult - given the impact on associates and customers - it was made only after careful evaluation and was guided by what is best for the company's ongoing success and future growth," Sylven continued.

Walnut Hill Plaza was built by the Ferland Corporation in 1960 and was considered Woonsocket's first suburban shopping center. The closing of the supermarket will leave behind a vast stretch of vacancies in the plaza's center, broken up by only a small post office. The only "anchor" store remaining will be Sears.

"They were a very strong company for a long time, but they've been having trouble for the last decade," said Wojcik. "The difficulty in being a retail center with national retail chains is you are completely beholden to their operations."

Acadia Realty, the national company that owns the 297,905 square-foot shopping center, did not return The Breeze's call for comment.

"We will move with some urgency to try to help Acadia to secure a new supermarket," Wojcik. The economic development director said he plans to reach out directly to chains like Hannaford in attempt to secure a new anchor store.

Wojcik said while he was not aware of any new retailers looking to move into Walnut Hill Plaza, there have been inquiries about the former Walmart property at 1919 Diamond Hill Road. That lot, however, which is still owned by the corporation, is tied up with deed restrictions.

"There is interest in the building, but Walmart is not a very good corporate citizen," Wojcik said. One of the restrictions it placed on the roughly 121,000 square foot lot, for example, states that there may be no retail greater than 45,000 square feet.

"If you buy their property, you can only use a third of the building. They won't accept any competition," said Wojcik. "In my opinion, that's awful."