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Greg’s market future uncertain

MIDDLEBURY — Greg’s Meat Market — a much-beloved, independently owned neighborhood supermarket operating at 3 Elm St. in Middlebury since 1981 — could be on the verge of closing its doors, perhaps as soon as this weekend, according to some sources.
The Addison Independent has received reports in recent days from loyal shoppers and former Greg’s employees alleging the imminent demise of the local supermarket, which had carved out a loyal following among shoppers who have frequented the business for its meat department, regular specials and personal service.
That personal service has included carting groceries to shoppers’ vehicles and making deliveries to shut-ins. Regular shoppers have ranged from blue-collar workers to college professors.
Wednesday morning saw a small crew of Greg’s employees tending to a store with various shelves appearing less stocked than usual. And the shelves were adorned with sale signs, offering, among other things, 33 percent off all grocery items. One shelf bearing non-perishables advertised a 75 percent discount.
Repeated efforts to reach storeowner Bart Litvin were unsuccessful as the Independent went to press Wednesday afternoon. The Independent called Greg’s and left an email inquiry for Litvin on Tuesday in an effort to get formal news of the store’s fate. An auto-reply from Litvin’s email address indicated he would be out until Thursday, March 26.
The reply also referred inquiries to Bethany Bingham, who during a brief phone conversation stated “no comment” and that Greg’s was open that day for normal business hours.
A customer at a Greg’s checkout counter Wednesday morning asked a clerk if the rumors about the closing of the store were true. The clerk simply replied “No.”
The Independent approached a Greg’s worker outside the store Wednesday morning to ask about the status of the supermarket. After expressing reluctance to respond, the worker said, “There might be a buyer.”
Greg Wry established the supermarket in place of Stan’s Shop & Save back in 1981. He had previously worked at the former Middlebury A&P for 22 years — 19 of them as manager. Prior to that, he had done chores at a small grocery store in St. Albans.
Wry expanded and remodeled the supermarket twice while he owned it, first in 1992 and then again in 2002. The store had 59 people on its employment roster when Wry decided to retire and sold the business to Bart Litvin and Lisa Hartman in December of 2009.
Litvin has been in the retail business — primarily in the Philadelphia, Pa., area — for much of his life. His dad had a store, and Litvin had also been the co-owner of some independent stores. He has also been involved in corporate retailing and internet retailing. Prior to acquiring Greg’s, Litvin worked as executive vice president for Smart Bargains, a Boston, Mass., internet retailer.
The Independent spoke with Wry on Tuesday afternoon. Wry confirmed that he had spoken with recent employees of the store who he said pointed to the closing of the store “as soon as this Saturday or Sunday.”
“It’s breaking my heart,” said Wry, who added he was unable to confirm at this time whether he has any ongoing business relationship in the store.
“It’s sad,” he said, pointing to the jobs that would be lost with the supermarket.
Wry is currently working part-time as a salesman for Monument Farms Dairy.
“I love it,” he said.
Joe Cotroneo owns Middlebury Discount Beverage at 21 MacIntyre Lane, just across what has been a busy parking lot from Greg’s. He said that he, too, has heard the rumors about the demise of Greg’s Meat Market. Cotroneo hopes the store will be able to stay open, as many of Greg’s customers have been Middlebury Discount Beverage customers.
“The busier they are, the better it is for the whole parking lot,” Cotroneo said.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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