Big crowds at grand openings of new Big Y markets in Milford, Derby
Enthusiastic shoppers from around the area came out in droves Thursday to celebrate the openings of new Big Y supermarkets in both Milford and Derby, the latter filling a major void in the neighborhood’s grocery landscape.
Big Y World Class Market in Milford was packed with shoppers by midmorning — not a parking space to be found — as a grand-opening ceremony with live music was held near the prepared food section.
There were super bargains, coupons, food samples, coffee, cider doughnuts and free goodies for customers. Among the specials, $7 off a turkey with a coupon from the store’s app, a deal that runs through Thanksgiving.
The third-generation family-owned grocery store — this one 55,000 square feet at 150 Boston Post Road and the other fewer than 10 miles away at 656 New Haven Ave. in Derby — is a chain born of humble beginnings, but now numbers 71 in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Cathy and Tom Gallbronner were among the first shoppers in Milford, as they need low-protein, gluten-free foods for their special needs son, Jacen, 17. The couple said variety of gluten-free products is abundant at Big Y, and until Thursday often shop at the pricier Whole Foods.
“I was very excited - I couldn’t wait for them to open,” said Cathy Gallbronner, her cart brimming with special foods. “They have a great assortment, it’s right around the corner from home and anything to save money.”
In an opening ceremony replete with dignitaries, manager Joe Fetcho said the store will deliver the chain’s trademark quality, freshness and friendly service — including recipes from employees.
He said they sell lots of locally grown and made products, including pasta from West Haven, hot dogs from New Haven, and produce from Easton, East Haven and several other area communities.
The new store’s extensive prepared food section will include a made-to-order stir fry station, breakfast options and even fresh sushi daily, he said.
The supermarket’s president and Chief Executive Officer, Charlie
“We are a family business and very, very proud of that,” D’Amour said. “We call our stores world class markets because that’s what we want for our customers and employees.”
D’Amour later attended the Derby grand opening, which included the same festive atmosphere as the Milford event, along with the Jolly Green Giant and Shelton’s Sutter-Terlizzi American Legion Post 10.
“We are delighted to be in Derby, and excited to be part of the progress happening up and down the Route 34 corridor,” D’Amour said. “Just like a world class athlete, we want to be true to our promise of doing our best every day.”
D’Amour said he’s proud the shelves in Derby are packed with locally grown products courtesy of Connecticut farms, including Lyman Orchards and other local merchants including popcorn from Kennedy Kitchens in Hamden; barbecue sauce from Nantucket Blonde in Cheshire; craft beers from Two Roads and Stoney Creek breweries, in Stratford and Branford, respectively; and ricotta and mozzarella cheeses from Calabro Cheese in East Haven.
Lifelong Derby resident Buster Jadach, Derby High School’s wrestling coach, paid a visit to the new store with his family and liked what he saw, especially the expanded hot food section, the stir fry and sushi bar, salad bar and locally made products.
“It’s great to have the store nearby,” Jadach said.
The new store has more than 170 employees, and is owned by DLC Management Corporation of Elmsford, N.Y., which handled the interior and exterior renovations of the former Walmart site.
Derby Mayor Richard Dziekan was thrilled to have Big Y call the city home, and quipped that since he lives nearby, “you’ll be seeing my face here a lot.”
Joining the celebration were the Klarides sisters — House Republican Minority Leader Themis Klarides and state Rep. Nicole Klarides-Ditria — who hail from the Valley’s famous Klarides Supermarket family. The two grew up watching their father and two uncles devote their lives to creating a successful family business from scratch, and truly appreciate that Big Y remains family owned and operated.
“We certainly understand the commitment it takes to be successful, and your family, like ours, knows that it takes commitment and it takes a team to succeed,” said Themis Klarides.
Milford Mayor Ben Blake, who attended the ceremony there along with Milford’s legislative delegation, started his address by saying, “A great big welcome to Big Y.”
Blake said Milford is going through s “huge economic expansion,” and having Big Y on the section of the Post Road where it is located is part of the positive wave. It is located on a stretch of road between Aldi’s supermarket and Stop and Shop that had been vacant for years.
“We are looking forward to being part of the Big Y family,” Blake said, noting the company’s “great” corporate reputation.
At the Milford event, D’Amour said four broad areas they are committed to in giving back are: first responders and military personnel, education, health care, and food insecurity.
D’Amour presented a check for $1,000 to Connecticut Food Bank CEO Valerie Schultz-Wilson, who said, “We could not do it without you Big Y. You are by far our largest food donor.” She said the food bank serves 144,000 people every month. In Derby, he donated $7,500 in gift cards to the Food Bank, along with “Sack Hunger” food bags.
Shopper Martha DeFeo of Milford described the new store there as “amazing” and appreciates the chain’s culture of helping those in need.
“It’s very clean, organized and has a good selection of organic products - really good organic cereals,” Defeo said. “That’s a lot of cutting edge.”
Carol Martin, also of Milford, stopped in to check out the store and said she’ll be back. Her best find: a yummy-looking cake from the bakery.
“It’s just wonderful - everything I got was a bargain,” Martin said. “I like everything - the bakery, the way the store is laid out.”
For grocery shoppers near the new Derby store, the opening was a relief, as the Walmart there closed in July 2016, followed by the shopping center’s Adam’s grocery store that September. The site has been vacant since, the first time that area was without a grocer.
Derby’s Economic Development Liaison Carmen DiCenso said the new Big Y will bring a much needed grocery store not only to Derby’s east side, but to the entire city, as well as nearby Orange and Woodbridge. Building Official Carlo Sarmiento said working with DLC on the Big Y project was one of most “professional jobs” he’s ever had the pleasure to oversee.
Brothers Paul and Gerry D’Amour began their legacy in 1936 by opening the 900-square-foot Y Cash Market in Chicopee, Mass., calling it that because it was located at an intersection where two roads converge to form a Y.
By 1940, business had increased 20-fold, and the store tripled in size. In 1947, the D'Amour brothers opened a second, larger Y Cash Market in a former bowling alley. In 1952 the brothers took a leap and opened a 10,000-square-foot store, nearly twice as large as most grocery stores at the time.
Because it was so much larger than typical markets in the area and was the first “modern” supermarket in the city of Chicopee, the brothers settled on the name Big Y Supermarket.