Tony Neri targets opening of Greg’s for mid-May

MIDDLEBURY — Local businessman Tony Neri is targeting May 15 for reopening the long-dormant Greg’s Meat Market at 3 Elm St. in Middlebury, and that’s just one of the entrepreneurial irons the 78-year-old currently has in the fire.
Neri has also applied for permission from the Middlebury Development Review Board to repair and expand the former Desabrais Laundry headquarters at 55 Middle Road and divide it into as many as four spaces for “mixed-commercial ventures,” including potentially retail stores, a restaurant, or even a small brewery.
Few business projects have generated as much buzz in Middlebury as Neri’s plan to rekindle Greg’s Meat Market.
It was during the summer of 2017 that he purchased Greg’s and the adjacent 2,000-square-foot Pool World building for a sum of $380,000 from TD bank. The once thriving Greg’s has stood dormant since April of 2015, when Bart Litvin filed for bankruptcy protection after having owned the enterprise for six years.
Neri, who owns several local enterprises (including the A&W on Route 7 South), saw potential in the Greg’s property and believed it could again prosper if he could buy it for the right price. It includes 4,820 square feet of retail space that he’s been in the process of renovating.
Workers have lowered the Greg’s shelving by two feet “so you can see through the whole store,” Neri said. “The entrance is bigger and wider, and the new entrance on the side of (Greg’s) has new doors.”
The project has taken a lot longer than Neri had anticipated, owing to substantial interior renovations.
“The biggest thing with Greg’s was the cooler doors,” Neri said. “They had to be made. We got it done. And now we’re moving forward with the little things.”
Managed by Gail Daha, the supermarket will continue to bear the “Greg’s” moniker in honor of its namesake, Greg Wry, who developed a loyal clientele for the independent grocery store by offering good prices, friendly service, deliveries to shut-ins and a well-stocked deli/meat department. Plans call for the new Greg’s to feature a “grab and go” business plan and a smaller inventory of grocery items than the former market stocked during its heyday.
“We’d like to equal what Greg (Wry) did, with meats and his deli, and produce,” Neri said. “That’s what we’d really like to emphasize.”
He’s been able to woo back “a few” former Greg’s employees.
Neri plans to replicate much of what made Greg’s successful, though on a smaller scale.
He will also demolish and remove the Pool World building before June 1, and make that area into a larger parking lot with a different traffic pattern. Pool World was given notice on April 1 that its lease would be terminated on the last day of April, leaving that business in search of another location.
“It’s been very costly to this point just to get the building back in shape, and then there’s going to be some cost in filling the store,” Neri said.
He said he fields questions “every day” from local folks hungry for information on the reopening of Greg’s.
“The repairs are never ending,” he acknowledged. “There was nothing done to the building for a number of years, while the previous owner had it. Putting all that back took more (time) than I anticipated.”
But he’s not afraid of big renovation jobs, and has another one lined up for a building he owns at 55 Middle Road. The town’s Development Review Board is slated to take an initial listen to Neri’s plan at a public hearing set for Monday, April 22, at 7 p.m. at the Middlebury municipal building at 77 Main St.
The 55 Middle Road building, vacant for several years, is the former home of Desabrais Laundry (now located at 1232 Exchange St.) and Middlebury Discount Foods, which some affectionately called the “dented cans” store.
Neri acquired it around a month ago from the Gero family. It was the site of a significant cleanup effort following its life as a Laundromat, according to Neri.
The seven-tenths of an acre in the Village Residential Commercial zone once hosted a 10,000-square-foot building, but past owners reduced the structure by half.
“I’m hoping (the town) will give me the OK to build onto it,” Neri said.
Ideally, Neri wants to grow 55 Middle Road to its original 10,000 square feet, and divide the space into two to four retail spots.
A refurbished 55 Middle Road could also host a light industrial tenant, such as a small brewery or brewpub, according to Neri.
“The only reason I’m not tearing down the old building is I can’t fight the politics anymore,” Neri said. “My new theory is, you don’t tear things down, you fix them up and make them work.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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