By JOHN HOWELL "e;See that roof over there?"e; Dave Cesario said, pointing beyond what used to be the Benny's parking lot at Wilde's Corner. Cesario knows the area well. It's where he got started with a fruit and produce stand more than 50 years ago on West
“See that roof over there?” Dave Cesario said, pointing beyond what used to be the Benny’s parking lot at Wilde’s Corner.
Cesario knows the area well. It’s where he got started with a fruit and produce stand more than 50 years ago on West Shore Road. Today, what Cesario started has grown into Dave’s Fresh Marketplace with 10 stores statewide.
Wearing a white smock like other Dave’s employees, Cesario with a mask and bushy white hair looked more like Doc Brown out of the film “Back to the Future” than the man behind one of the state’s most successful independently owned supermarkets. Joining him was a phalanx of co-workers, city officials, Carpionato Group President Kelly Coates and his entourage and, most important to Cesario, at least a dozen shoppers anxious to explore the newest Dave’s Marketplace, which is in the former Benny’s store and going way back was a Star Market.
Wilde’s Corner is really a Dave’s time capsule. Going back to the future, this is the fourth Dave’s store within a radius of 1,000 yards. The West Shore Road store that is owned by the company has closed and will be cleaned up. Its future is in limbo at the moment, said Sue Budlong, marketing communication manager.
The decision to relocate to the larger former Benny’s came after Carpionato Group bought the 29 Benny’s locations soon after the iconic Rhode Island chain closed in 2016. While many embraced the prospect of a larger and all-new Dave’s and raved over how the company contributes so much to the community, some neighbors feared the store would introduce trucks to neighborhood residential streets as well as cut through traffic seeking to avoid congested Wilde’s Corner.
To address concerns, a rear entrance to the property is closed and Carpionato will pick up the cost of an additional traffic signal at the corners. Coates thought the light would be installed early next year.
But the light was far from his mind Friday.
“This is the best supermarket in the state of Rhode Island,” he exclaimed as he stepped into the store and was greeted by carefully arranged pyramids of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The new store is about the same size as that at Hoxsie Four Corners. But shoppers will pick up on some differences.
Budlong said in response to comments from shoppers at the former West Shore Road store, the new store has shorter aisles. Robert Fabiano, director of store development, who took Coates and Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur on a behind-the-scene tour of walk-in freezers, a bakery, kitchen and storage, estimated the store has in the range of 10,000 more items than the nearest Stop & Shop. He noted that while the competitor, for example, had one or two brands of ketchup, Dave’s has more than a dozen.
“It feels like coming home,” Cesario said. “The community has been great to us.”
Indeed, some longtime acquaintances turned out for the opening, although Cesario and his wife, Lee Ann, may not have recognized them at first behind their masks. Candace Day was one of them. It was about 15 years ago that Cesario served as best man to her sister’s husband.
And then there was Andy Sigal, whose father, Irving, played a key role in helping Cesario get off the ground. The Sigals run Tourtellot, a Warwick-based company that provides wholesale produce.
“His father was the first to give me credit,” Cesario said. Whereas other food wholesalers wanted their money upon delivery, Irving was prepared to wait. Cesario also credits his loyal customers to propelling his success.
“If we didn’t have the community here, we never would have started,” he said.
Sigal joked that the first thing Fabiano wanted him to see in the new store was the restroom. He confessed he was impressed by the attention to the décor. Yet he pegged the mark of success to how Dave’s Marketplace does business with the local businesses and how it employs so many locally. He also talked of how the company stands by its employees and the integrity and “high character” of the company.
The new store has resulted in 75 new Warwick jobs.
Budlong pointed out that features of the store bring to mind Oakland Beach, Rocky Point and Buttonwoods.
“We try hard to bring in those local elements that will have our customers feel comfortable – a real neighborhood market. We created shorter aisles in this store to replicate that Lil’ Dave’s feeling,” she said in an email.
The 26-acre site also includes a new 6,500-square-foot retail space in-line with Dave’s as well an existing freestanding 2,246-square-foot Taco Bell. Additionally, a soon-to-be-built 2,500-square-foot building will partially house a Citizens Bank branch, which will move from across the street. That building is expected to be turned over to Citizens Bank in early 2021.