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Roche Bros. plans Davis Square store

An artist’s rendering of the Roche Bros. Marketplace that is proposed for Davis Square in Somerville.

Roche Bros.

An artist’s rendering of the Roche Bros. Marketplace that is proposed for Davis Square in Somerville.

Roche Bros. has taken steps toward opening a small market in Somerville’s Davis Square, a move that could bring jobs to the area and business for local vendors.

Dena Zigun, director of marketing for Wellesley-based Roche Bros., said the company has signed a letter of intent to open a Brothers Marketplace, which she described as “smaller, neighborhood markets, where people know your name and what you like.”

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John Connolly, Somerville alderman at large, said the marketplace is expected to occupy 12,000 square feet at the corner of Elm and Chester streets. A Dunkin’ Donuts that is now in the space would move to another location in the building, and a fitness facility called Crunch will take up the second floor, he said.

Connolly said the residents he has spoken with are eager for another market in the square, and that the weekend farmers market is very popular, with some vendors selling out by midday.

“There are a lot of folks I’ve spoken with who say this is just exactly what we need,” he said. “You can walk there, get your fresh produce and vegetables every second or third day, and then maybe on the weekends you’ll go to a larger store for your dry goods.”

Ward 6 Alderwoman Rebekah Gewirtz will hold a public meeting on Sept. 10 for Roche Bros. to present the details of its proposal to the community.

Connolly said he expects the plan will go before the planning and zoning boards within the next few months. If approved, renovating the property is anticipated to take anywhere from nine months to a year, he said.

‘To have a small grocery store with an urban feel is what a lot of neighbors are looking for.’ — Rebekah Gewirtz, Ward 6 alderwoman

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Connolly said Roche Bros. representatives have made it clear they want to be involved with residents.

“They’ve told us: ‘If there’s a community need, we’ll be involved in it; we know how to be a part of the community,’ ” Connolly said.

The market would focus on perishable items such as produce, specialty cheeses, seafood, meats, and baked goods, Zigun said. The aim would be to partner with vendors in and around Somerville, as well as to hire locally.

“We put an emphasis on hiring local people who love food and have food experience,” she said. “So we are excited not just for the product offerings to any new location, but to bring the jobs.”

She said the company owns 15 Roche Bros., three Sudbury Farms, and two Brothers Marketplace stores. The only other location north of Boston is in Burlington.

Residents who live near Davis Square expressed mixed feelings about the proposal.

Forrest Snyder, 49, said he does not think another market is necessary, and that there are more than enough options within close proximity to Davis Square.

Snyder, an artist who lives near Davis Square, said: “It seems like saturation to me. There’s plenty of variety.”

According to the Somerville Chamber of Commerce, other markets in Davis Square include McKinnon’s Meat Market, Sessa’s Cold Cuts and Italian Specialties, and Dave’s Fresh Pasta. The closest chain supermarkets are Star Market in Porter Square and Stop & Shop on Alewife Brook Parkway.

Mallory Laboulaye, 24, who lives next to Davis Square, also said there are many supermarket choices, and that it is unlikely residents would stop shopping at their favorite store just because a new one is closer to their home.

“People are attached to their grocery stores,” said Laboulaye, who works as a neuroscience research assistant at Harvard.

But Sarah Josselyn, 34, a seamstress, said she would welcome a store that catered toward selling local produce and goods.

“If they were sourcing from local farms . . . and if they offer something different than what the current local options are, I would see that as a bonus,” she said.

Gewirtz, who is the alderwoman for Davis Square, said one of her primary concerns is that McKinnon’s Meat Market — which is close to the proposed market — will not be adversely affected.

“It’s very important to me that McKinnon’s continues to thrive,” she said.

“McKinnon’s has some of the best prices that you can find around, and they have a very loyal customer base. I think the Roche Brothers market is a much different concept . . . my hope is that it will be a different enough store, a different enough concept, that there won’t be consequence.”

She said the space has been vacant for several years, and the residents she has spoken with have been enthusiastic about the idea, but she wants more input from community members at the September meeting.

“There have been different proposals that have come forward, but none of them have been appropriate,” she said. “This is a great use for this space; to have a small grocery store with an urban feel is what a lot of neighbors are looking for.”

Katherine Landergan can be reached at katherine.lander-gan1@gmail.com.
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