Shoppers line up as new ShopRite opens its doors

Shoppers lined up outside the new ShopRite Sunday morning, waiting for the store to open as managers, employees and owners Harry and Ann Garafalo put the finishing touches on the new market, and as the store’s very first shopper made her way down the aisles.

Missy Dubin, the winner of a Kids Count auction, bid $1,045 at a recent fundraiser to be ShopRite’s first customer and to get a chance to spend half an hour filling her shopping carriages with meats, shrimp, shampoos, diapers and whatever else she could grab before the store officially opened for business.

The shopping spree wasn’t quite as frenetic as some of the old televised shopping sprees, where people had 10 minutes or so to load a carriage and then run to the register before the time ran out.

This spree was a bit more organized.

Dubin had a half hour to chose up to $1,000 in groceries, and there were a couple of restrictions. She could only take one of each specific item, meaning she couldn’t load up on the jumbo shrimp.

“I’m just taking one,” she said to a family member with a smile as she put a bag of shrimp in her carriage.

There was also a restriction about age-appropriate items, said store owner Harry Garafalo, explaining that when the store offered the $1,000 shopping spree, he didn’t know if the winning bidder might be under 18 years old.

The auction prize also came with a $100 ShopRite gift card.

Dubin didn’t rush through the store, but carefully picked through her purchases. She was even allowed into the store about 15 minutes early so that she’d have plenty of time to finish her shopping and get to the $1,000 in items.

“In the old days, there’d be so much time, and you’d see the person running through the store,” Garafalo said, noting the more traditional grocery store shopping sprees.

“But that wasn’t a good idea. We’re still setting up,” he said, indicating the numerous staff moving about the floors as the store prepared to open.

Peggy Kelly, Milford Kids Count executive director, was in the store, as was Dubin’s mother, husband and children. Dubin and her husband, Brock, have three children: Grace, 4; and twins Jack and Sadie, eight months. So while the shopping spree wasn’t a grand food landslide, seeing she paid $1,045 for the $1,100 in total prizes, she did have a chance to stock up on some of the essentials needed for a young family.

It was more for the charity, Kelly said, adding that the shopping spree was the hottest among the Kids Count fundraiser auctions.

Still, Dubin was excited and strategized her shopping spree, said her mother, Joan Cagginello.

And Dubin, a regular ShopRite shopper, said it was great being the very first shopper in the new store. “This is excellent. The store is gorgeous,” she said.

ShopRite, for years one of MIlford’s primary grocery stores, moved last week from its longtime location on Cherry Street across the street to the site that once housed the Showcase Cinemas, and years before that was the site of a drive-in theater: The Milford Drive-In was Connecticut’s first drive-in theater and opened May 26, 1939, according to  There was a flea market on the site once, too.

The new ShopRite store is 16,000 square feet larger than the previous store, and employs about 270 people, up from the 200 across the street, Harry Garafalo said.

Described as state of the art, the store includes an upstairs cafe and culinary center.

Dave McAllen, who ran a local seafood store before taking over ShopRite’s seafood department 13 years ago, said, “Everything is brand spanking new,” and noted a special refrigeration system that will keep the seafood colder and moister than ever before.

Mayor Ben Blake and other city officials were on hand for a 7:45 a.m. ribbon cutting. “This is a huge day for Milford,” Blake said.

The mayor said he has already heard of interest in now vacated Cherry Street store location, but he couldn’t discuss details about who might take up the vacated space.

Ken Fellenbaum, a local minister, was among the ribbon cutting ceremony attendees Sunday morning, and he said that in addition to being a ShopRite shopper, he’s also a fan of the Garafalos.

“There are no finer corporate citizens in Milford than Harry and his wife,” Fellenbaum said.

Ann Garafalo stood proudly at the front of the store as shoppers poured in Sunday. She and Harry actually met years ago when they both worked at the ShopRite that was in the former XPect Discount location. Harry was only 16 and started is ShopRite career pushing carriages, she said. After that store closed they went their separate ways but then met up again and married.

Ann was working in the ShopRite store on Cherry Street when the owner left and she and Harry had a chance to buy the store. The family also operates ShopRite stores in East Haven, Stratford, West Haven and Hamden.