Tops Marketplace construction nearing completion

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Tops Marketplace is progressing almost one year after a fire consumed the building. (Photo by Janelle Morelli)

Just about a year after the fire that burned the whole building to the ground, Tops Marketplace will host a grand opening of the completely renewed community grocery store.

On March 3, 2019, tragedy struck the local store—the store that had been a pillar in the community for years and was no stranger to giving back to its town in countless ways. News of the tragedy struck the whole town. Locals even organized a candlelight vigil the next day.

“I was shocked. A candlelight vigil? For a grocery store?” said co-owner John Salerno. “There must have been over 500 people there that night, and we were just overwhelmed with the support of the community. I was really taken aback.”

At the time, Salerno said he was almost ready to walk away from Tops Marketplace completely.

Tops Market owners Betsy Tooker, left, and John Salerno, right, promise to rebuild at a vigil after the fire. (Photo by John Goralski)

“I was undecided. Tops had had a 68-year run, and I myself had been there for 40 years. I thought maybe I might just retire,” he said. “One of the major deciding factors to rebuild was just the support of the community.”

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Over 250 people contributed to a GoFundMe to help Tops Marketplace rebuild, raising over $20,000.

“We pledged to the community, in spirit of what we’ve been doing for 68 years, to give it all back to the community once we get our feet on the ground,” said Salerno. At the entrance of the new building, a large wall will list all the names of people who donated to the rebuild fund.

The new building is in the same location as the original Tops Marketplace. The new modernized building will breathe new life into the organization. The original building was built in 1957, and while it had a number of additions over the years, Salerno said they built around coolers rather than changing things around.

“The new building will make a little more sense,” he said. Before, much of the electrical equipment was stored inside of the building. With the update, it will be on the roof of the building, making more room within the store.

A worker toils inside the building. (Photo by Janelle Morelli)

Although the footprint is about the same, the new store will feel much bigger. The ceiling is 18 feet high. In the original building, in some parts of the store the ceiling was only nine feet high. Walkways are also wider. Aisles used to be about 11 feet wide. Now, they will be about 22 feet wide.

Tops Marketplace will now have two chefs, and will be able to offer more prepared foods, including a salad bar. They will also have uncooked, quick-prep meals that customers can pick up, toss in the oven and have a meal ready to go in no time.

The new building will have a grocery pick-up window at the back of the store. Customers will be able to order all of their groceries either online or by phone, then staff will collect them, and bring them out to the customer. Tops Marketplace will also offer a grocery delivery service to customers.

Salerno said the new building will have many “beautiful” features that are also more energy efficient and keep products fresher longer.

“We really put a lot of thought and attention into detail with the updated building,” said Salerno.

There is no official opening date at this time, but Salerno felt confident that the store would be ready to open by mid-March. There is still much work to be done, but the shell is there, he said.

Tops Marketplace is located at 887 Meriden-Waterbury Tpk., Southington.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at News@SouthingtonObserver.com.

Work continues inside and out.