NORTH SMITHFIELD/BURRILLVILLE – It seems in both Slatersville and Pascoag, something old is new again.
At a grand re-opening events at Brigido’s Fresh Markets in two neighboring towns, it was a passing of the torch for an 80-year-old tradition of family grocery service, and the start of a new era promising changes for the long-established business.
“Today was an introduction to the community… the official introduction of my family taking over a legacy from another family,” said Mike Fernandez.
Mike and wife Melissa Fernandez, New York natives who now own the grocery chain that also includes a third store in North Scituate, held symbolic ribbon-cutting events with town officials at the stores this month, while holding raffles for prizes including Boston Red Sox tickets and a 50-inch television.
It marked a celebration of improvements that have been underway since the family bought the business from members of the original Brigido family back in December.
“We hope everybody’s happy with the changes we’ve made to the business,” Mike said. “We’ve made a lot of improvements to the store.”
For anyone who shops at a Brigido’s market regularly, it would be hard not to note the changes. From cosmetic improvements such as freshly-painted walls, to modernizations that include a rewards program, the new owners have given all of the stores a light makeover while maintaining the small-town grocer aesthetic.
Even more apparent are the changes to cost and selection. Fernandez noted that they’ve added more than 3,000 new SKUs – that’s stock keeping units identifying distinct products for those not familiar with the grocery biz – since the takeover. The increased selection, he said, includes both value and specialty items.
“We brought in several companies that are supplying our store,” Fernandez told NRI NOW at the Slatersville event. Prices, he said, are down, “a lot,” while new brands including Green Way, the stores’ exclusive private label, have added variety.
“Our prices will be competitive with anyone,” Fernandez said, adding that in recent years at the market, “I think they were just stuck with old pricing.”
Originally established by Portuguese immigrant Augusto Brigido in 1943, the three-store chain was operated by a third generation of the family prior to the recent acquisition, including Mark Brigido, who was at the opening this week wishing his successors well.
“We’re very excited for Mike and Melissa,” Brigido told NRI NOW. “The improvements they’ve made already are very exciting.”
Asked how he’s spending his free time with the transfer of ownership complete, Brigido said he’s been helping his son operate Moose Tracker’s Ice Cream and Confections in North Scituate.
But it seems the Brigido name, and his grandfather’s legacy, will live on through a transition that’s brought in new grocers with a history of success. The Fernandez family also owns several independent supermarkets in New York and Connecticut known as Super Foodstores.
“They’ve done a great job,” Mike said of the Brigido family. “I’m here to pick up the ball.”
“It was a big move for us,” he added. “It was the biggest move that my family has ever endured.”
He said his family is looking to move closer to the Rhode Island stores and may soon purchase a home in Connecticut.
“Hopefully, we’re going to make a transition soon,” he said.
And the owner said he plans to increase the business’s presence within the community, and to play a greater role in the towns that it serves.
“Our stores that we own – we look for any way to give back,” Fernandez said. “You’re going to hear a lot of our name.”
Fernendez said he hopes to collaborate with local schools, and to sponsor various events and organizations.
“We have kids,” he said. “You can count on our organization for support.”
For those who haven’t shopped at Brigido’s recently, Fernendez has a message.
“Just try it,” he said. “Give it another shot.”
“I want to bring back the days where the people who live here, shop here,” he said.