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New business to revitalize Food Mart plaza

The Steve & Barry's sign has already been installed at the site of the former Food Mart plaza. Similar renovations are taking place to the adjacent Ames building, which will become Dave's Soda and Pet City. Grand openings are projected for sometime next month. Reminder Publications photo by Katelyn Gendron
By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM After almost a decade of underutilization the once dilapidated former Food Mart Plaza and Ames building will see revitalization next month when the clothing store Steve & Barry's and Dave's Soda and Pet City open.

The Steve & Barry's sign has already been installed on the former Food Mart Plaza's neutral fa ade, the store's flooring is being laid down and a projected April grand opening is on the horizon, according to Marcel Sander, owner of the Food Mart plaza.

Last week new doors for the for the Dave's Soda and Pet City were being installed in the former Ames building and owner Dave Ratner said he also projected an April grand opening.

Only a few months ago the sites were littered with garbage and weeds and graffiti tagged the facades of these buildings. However, complete remodeling and landscaping of these sites and the acquisition of quality business have given the owners high hopes for the economic rejuvenation of this previously depressed area.

Sander said Steve & Barry's will occupy approximately 60 percent of the former Food Mart plaza and that he is currently "entertaining offers from other businesses" for the remaining space. Sander has owned the vacant property for about three years but explained that he was looking for high-quality businesses to fill the storefronts rather than dollar stores that previously showed interest in the space.

"I give a lot of credit to Marcel due to the fact that he could have filled storefronts with stores that are not of the caliber of Steve & Barry's," Deborah Dachos, director of Planning and Community Development, said. "He filled the storefront with an anchor of quality business."

Dachos added that this "anchor" will aid Sander and the town in acquiring successful, premium businesses for the remaining space.

Dachos worked closely with Sander to increase the site's appeal to commercial business, specifically by gaining the Massachusetts Office of Business Development's designation as an exceptional opportunity area.

"When we open a store we are trying to make a positive impact on that community," Rachel Brenner, spokesperson for Steve & Barry's, said. "We have a great track record of revitalizing business in the area when we open a new store. We hope the same thing happens here in Agawam."

Brenner said this location, one of four in the region, will provide approximately 100 new jobs. She added that those seeking consideration should stop by the store between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. on or before March 28.

"What's great about Agawam in that kind of center is that it's a safe harbor for independent business," Ratner said.

He explained that his new Agawam location inside the Ames building will include an 8,000 square foot training center and a do-it-yourself grooming center along with all the usual Dave's Soda and Pet City amenities. Ratner said he has spent approximately $1 million for the site's renovation including a new fa ade to match that of the Food Mart plaza.

Mayor Susan Dawson said each site's transformation will help to provide the community with enhanced commercial appeal, economic stimulus and increased revenues.