Losing a grocery store is a big deal in a small town like Waterbury. When the P&C shut its doors last February, local shoppers were devastated - especially those who were in the habit of walking to the 20,000-square-foot downtown market. They speculated that the store was probably hurt by a new Shaw's that opened last March on the outskirts of town. After two months with a single shopping option, last Friday Waterbury residents welcomed "friendly" competition. RJ's Friendly Market, owned by Bobby "R.J." George, opened the doors to its location in the old P&C building. In the town that hosts WDEV radio, it's another good old mom-and-pop.
Don't expect George to be a permanent fixture behind the counter, though. He also runs a 28,000-square-foot grocery in Newport. It's been there for 20 years - recently holding its own against a Shaw's and a P&C. What made him decide to expand into the Waterbury market? "The people in town are exceptionally friendly and wanted a grocery store downtown there," he explains. Landlord Ernie Pomerleau owns the buildings in both locations.
Asked whether the food culture in Waterbury is different than in Newport, George explains, "I think people are the same about anywhere." They want "good service and fair prices, and that's what we offer."
And that's not all. The official website for the traditional grocery business boasts, "The most noted commodity at RJ's is not the produce, meat selections, deli or any other department within its walls. Those of us who have visited this small-town grocery store value the atmosphere more than all the other fine goods RJ's offers."
George says he isn't concerned about the new, free, GMTA shuttle that's bussing citizens to the Waterbury Shaw's on Wednesdays. "They do what they do, I do what I do." Check it out.