Stop & Shop strike hurting adjacent businesses

April 16, 2019 GMT

For nearly a week, striking Stop & Shop employees have carried signs and formed picket lines near the entrances of the grocery stores. They have also gathered in the parking lots and on the sidewalks to raise awareness to their contract dispute with the Massachusetts grocery giant.

The protests have been mostly peaceful — although one customer was arrested in Wilton Tuesday after an alleged confrontation with a picketer — but they have also taken a toll on neighboring businesses.

With more than 240 locations in Connecticut, Stop & Shop represents the state’s most important anchor retailer, the term used to describe the dominant tenant that helps generate business for smaller stores in the same plaza.

The CEO of Urstadt Biddle Properties, a real estate investment trust in Greenwich that operates shopping centers in Connecticut and New York, said he has not received complaints from tenants adjacent to Stop & Shop stores in Stamford, Darien, Stratford and New Milford.

“The strikers have been well behaved and there have been no real disruptions at the properties,” Urstadt Biddle CEO Wing Biddle wrote in an email to Hearst Connecticut Media. “It hurts the other retailers when the supermarket is not operating, so we hope the strike ends soon.”

Val’s Putnam Wines is among the retailers that have felt the impact of the Stop & Shop strike. But an employee of the West Putnam Avenue store in Greenwich echoed Biddle’s view.

“A lot of people who come here go to the grocery store and vice versa, so the traffic has slowed down big time since the strike started,” said Gabriela Carbonetti, a sales assistant at Val’s.

The strikers are “staying in their area, and they don’t bother us,” she said.

Negotiations continued Tuesday with five union affiliates of the United Food & Commercial Workers, with Quincy, Mass.-based Stop & Shop posting a statement on its website acknowledging it is not “business as usual” at its stores.

The president of the Farmington-based UFCW Local 919 addressed union members Tuesday from the negotiating table in Providence, R.I., estimating Stop & Shop’s revenue losses at $20 million a day since the strike began.

“They can get this done today — you’ve inflicted enough damage on them,” said Mark Espinosa, president of UFCW Local 919. “Don’t let it be told to you that we caused this problem. They caused this problem — they backed us into the only solution we have left.”

Includes reporting by Clare Dignan, Paul Schott, Jim Shay and Luther Turmelle.

Alex.Soule@scni.com; 203-842-2545; @casoulman