So far, the Stop & Shop expansion project seems to be flying under the radar of many people who would be concerned if they knew exactly what Stop & Shop is planning for the expansion of their Vineyard Haven store.
Stop & Shop wants to plunk a big box type of store into the middle of the Vineyard Haven waterfront. In aspect and appearance it is a type more suitable to a suburban shopping mall than to the center of a small New England resort town. To accommodate the needs of their big box store, Stop & Shop also want to radically reconfigure the town parking lot and traffic patterns (including effectively closing Norton Lane).
Since the new building was unveiled I have sensed that the whole thing is a corporate cookie-cutter type project. It is utterly inappropriate to the Vineyard Haven setting. The design had to come from Supermarket Central, some location far removed from Vineyard Haven!
I understand that Stop & Shop is not budging from their plan, despite adding a few ornamental gewgaws to the façade. Now I think I know why.
Stop & Shop is owned by a Netherlands-based corporation, Ahold, which is one of the largest international food retailers. Ahold has a strategy of developing so-called formats — one per country — for each of its main markets. It owns food chains in four countries. Ahold’s format for its USA-based supermarkets is the Giant Carlisle format. Giant Carlisle is one of the supermarket chains that Ahold owns.
Ahold’s corporate strategy was stated by their COO, Sander van der Laan, in a document titled “Broadening Our Offer, Format Development.” It is to “share four format initiatives across Ahold.” For the US, Ahold has a “supermarket center store concept.” The strategy is to “Leverage: Giant Carlisle Center Store Layout in U.S.,” — that is, to apply their store formula nationwide. (You can download a PDF of the document on this page. More information about Stop & Shop formats can be found by doing an internet search for “Stop & Shop format.”)
Stop & Shop has many positive initiatives and my concerns do not imply a blanket condemnation of the company. As a corporate strategy this uniform format makes sense. Most of the USA supermarkets owned by Ahold are in shopping malls with large parking lots around them.
But does it make sense as a land-use strategy for the Vineyard Haven waterfront, the principal gateway to the Island?
I urge those interested in appropriate land use and design in Vineyard Haven and on the Island to read the Ahold format strategy document, and then go to the MVC website (the calendar section) and look at the streetscapes that give some idea of how the current Stop & Shop proposal would end up looking, minus the trees and the comfort station currently in the town parking lot.
I think we need to broaden the discussion of what kind of Stop & Shop expansion and design would align with the Vineyard’s special character while well serving the shopping needs of Islanders and visitors.
The Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s open public hearing continues on August 29 at the Tisbury Senior Center. The land use planning committee is also planning to discuss the project at its meeting on August 19,at 5 p.m., at the MVC offices in Oak Bluffs (the meeting is open to the public, but not for public comment).PDF: