New Greg’s owners to stay the course
MIDDLEBURY — Regular shoppers at Greg’s Meat Market will notice some new faces walking through the aisles — along with the absence of a familiar one.
Greg Wry on Tuesday formally sold the store to Bart Litvin and Lisa Hartman (see related story). The sale represents the end of an era and the beginning of a new one, though the new owners stressed they won’t tamper at all with the winning formula Wry has employed at the store for the past 28 years.
Litvin, 53, has been in the retail business — primarily in the Philadelphia area — for much of his life. His dad operated a store, and Litvin has also co-owned some independent stores. He has also been involved in corporate retailing and Internet retailing. He most recently worked as executive vice president for Smart Bargains, an Internet retailer based in Boston.
But a couple of years ago, Litvin decided he was due for a change of pace and scenery.
“I made a decision to leave the corporate world,” Litvin said. “I sat down and made a list of things that interested me. Food was high on the list.”
He and his partner Lisa Hartman weren’t immediately sure into what food industry they wanted to transition. Litvin noted restaurants, food co-ops and independent stores all made the list.
Early this year, Litvin saw Greg’s on a list of stores for sale. He and his son Evan made the trip to Vermont, and they immediately liked what they saw.
“I thought it was an amazing business,” Litvin said. “We were very excited. We began a dialogue with Greg and learned more about the business.”
They learned about the history of the store, its independent nature, and the emphases on customer service and carrying local products. It was a tradition he and Hartman were committed to continuing — right down to the name. While Litvin and Hartman could have gone with a new store name like “Bart’s Mart,” they decided to stick with the tried-and-true moniker of “Greg’s.”
Litvin and Hartman visited Middlebury and Greg’s nine times between February and August, learning more about the business and the community. They felt drawn to the area and appreciated the community’s support for local commerce.
“I think it’s a wonderful place,” Litvin said. “Folks are friendly and proud of the community. That has a lot of meaning to us.”
Litvin said that he and Hartman would, like Wry, give back to the community and maintain the same customer-friendly services — like carting groceries to shoppers’ vehicles and deliveries to shut-ins — that have been a hallmark of the store for decades.
“It will remain a family business; it’s just a different family now,” Litvin said. “All (59) employees will be staying.”
And Litvin and Hartman plan to be toiling with their workers in a store that is open upwards of 98 hours per week, year-round.
“That is the nature of retail,” he said, of hard work and long hours. “The customers will be seeing me. I do realize the connection between myself and the customers.”