, which built a business selling fish, expanded to sell meat after Universal Food Store in Noank closed and it saw an opportunity.
“There was a need in the community once Universal went down and we’re always trying to change, add things, keep things interesting,” said Sean Coleman, general manager of Grossman’s. “This just seemed like a no brainer.”
Universal But a board of seven people have since taken over the store and are turning it into a cooperative market with organic products, a deli, bakery and catering business.
Coleman said he believes the two stores can co-exist.
“They’re going to be doing a lot of cooking there, they’re going to cater to that lunch crowd,” he said. Grossman’s makes chowder, but deals primarily with fresh seafood and meat, he said.
C.J. Lewis, manager of Universal, said the community has supported Universal's efforts and also support Grossman's.
"We all like to have choices," she said. "And I think offering more choices is also a statement about confidence in the future."
So far, 293 people have asked to be members of the cooperative. The board running the business needs $250,000 to buy equipment, inventory and pay staff, and is confident it will raise it, Lewis said.
At Grossman's, the business has tripled its grocery items and added dairy, produce and vegetables in addition to meat. Coleman said the idea is to create one-stop shopping where customers can buy what they need for a surf and turf dinner, for instance.
It's the first time , has ever tried meat sales. Owner Peter Danesi started working in Grossman’s in West Mystic after high school, back when Earl Bradshaw was owner. Danesi later became a partner, then bought out Bradshaw and ran the store for 43 years with his wife, Melissa.
General Manager Coleman is Danesi’s son-in-law. As of October, Coleman’s stepfather, Rich Lafaille, manages the Mystic store. Lafaille worked for 40 years as a meat cutter at Stop and Shop, mostly in Waterford.
Lafaille said steaks and hamburger are the top selling meat items so far and account for 35 to 40 percent of meat sales. Grossman’s in Mystic is the retail store; in Groton sells wholesale fish.
Coleman said the expansion hasn’t hurt seafood sales, which still account for about 80 percent of the business.
“The one thing that was important was that we didn’t lose focus on who we are, so our primary is still seafood and it will always be seafood,” he said. “But we have boaters that come in during summer time and adding this product is just another convenience for them.”