By Domenic DeMasi
“In all aisles of the Marketplace you could hear how happy the patrons are to finally have a market open in town”, begins Catherine Elcik’s article in the June 10th, 1999 issue of the Winthrop Sun-Transcript about the opening day of Winthrop Marketplace. As the Winthrop Marketplace prepares to celebrate its twentieth anniversary, the delight of the store’s customers has not settled down. “I love his meats, I love his produce, the convenience of being in Winthrop. It is nice and small and he has great weekly specials”, said Robin Rice, a loyal Winthrop Marketplace customer since the store first opened for business in June 1999.
It is really quite remarkable how a small, single, independent grocery store has not just survived, but thrived, for so long while being surrounded by the supermarkets of many corporate competitors like Market Basket, Price Rite, and Stop & Shop. Store manager Kevin Miccichi, who has been with the Winthrop Marketplace family since day one, has said one of the primary reasons has been “being able to change with the times on a personal touch”. This has included taking special orders for items the store does not carry and stocking organic items as consumer demand for them has grown in recent years. “People who shop here are familiar with us and have ties to us” he said, adding that “we have made a lot of donations to the town and we helped the community any way we could”, mentioning that the store has been involved with several community events like sponsoring the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce Day At The Beach and serving apple cider at the town’s Christmas tree lighting.
Having been working as a deli clerk at Winthrop Marketplace for about a year now, I have noticed that Winthrop Marketplace is more than just a grocery store for local residents. Every day I see customers otherwise unknown to each other having spirited conversations on topics ranging from the news of the day to their favorite cold cuts. It is not uncommon that I witness friends who have not seen each other in some time bumping into each other at Winthrop Marketplace, of all places, and catching up, asking how their trip was or how their kids are doing in school. Clearly, the Winthrop Marketplace also serves as a friendly social space for the community where members can comfortably interact with each other.
It is also where they can interact with the employees and, of course, where the employees can interact with each other. “After awhile you get to learn about people’s families, their pets, and you get to joke around with everyone”, said Elizabeth McDuffee, a cashier who has been with the Winthrop Marketplace since 2016, when she was still a junior in high school. In fact, many of the Winthrop Marketplace’s employees are high school and college students. “We have given a lot of kids their first jobs here” said Brian Macrina, another store manager who has been with Winthrop Marketplace since its inception, who recognizes the store’s youth employment program as another way the store gives back to the community. While many student employees eventually leave the Marketplace for other education or employment, a few have stuck around or have returned after long departures. Antonetta Adler, John Devlin, and Michael Miccichi (son of Kevin) are longtime employees who have all been with the Winthrop Marketplace since they were high school students, beginning in 2001, 2003, and 2006, respectively. Besides youth employment, the Winthrop Marketplace also prides itself as an equal opportunity employer as many employees with disabilities have come and gone over the years.
With all of this in mind, it should come as no surprise that the Winthrop Marketplace has stuck around and has stuck out in Winthrop. “It is a part of the community because it participates in the community. Marc is very generous to the community and gives back to the community”, said Lois Sullivan, another dedicated Winthrop Marketplace customer since 1999. Tracey Martucci, also shopping at the store since its beginning, said “Marc is always welcoming, always engaging with his customers. You guys always have everything I need”. This kind of customer feedback may form part of the reason why the Winthrop Marketplace has been a recipient of the Retail Association Of Massachusetts New Business Of The Year Award in 2000 and American Dream Award in 2002, the Winthrop Chamber Of Commerce Business Of The Year Award in 2002, and the C&S Wholesale Grocers Community Service Of The Year Award in 2017.
Twenty years is a long time and the Winthrop Marketplace has big plans for its upcoming celebration during the week of June 6-13. The store’s recently installed new floor will be matched with twentieth anniversary banners hung from its walls and ceiling as well as special twentieth anniversary shirts for its employees. Customers will also have the pleasure of taking some free samples, participating in raffles for prizes, and taking advantage of the store’s 20th anniversary supersales on select products.
Catherine Elcik continued in her opening day article that “If the reactions of the first week are any indication, the Marketplace is in Winthrop to stay”. After 20 years the Winthrop Marketplace has not only confirmed Elcik’s prediction, but has also visibly left an indelible mark on Winthrop’s history through the customers it has served and the 50+ organizations it has contributed to throughout the past two decades. “I cannot thank the customers from Winthrop and the surrounding communities enough for their loyalty for the past twenty years”, said Marc Wallerce of the Winthrop Marketplace, adding “I enjoy coming to work everyday. Some are more challenging than others, but through it all it has been very rewarding and I wouldn’t change anything that has happened. And I can see in the next 20 years our team and our customers working hand in hand to make our company grow with the community.”
Winthrop Marketplace has been located at 35 Revere St., in Winthrop for the past 20 years.