In the mid 1990s a Stop & Shop was the subject of a series of contentious zoning hearings in which many North End residents thought a super store was being shoved down their throats in a heavy residential area. This past week 130 employees at Stop & Shop have been notified the Madison Avenue store will close and they will be relocated to positions at other stores. September 20 will be the final day of operation, according to the company.
Stop & Shop also has Bridgeport stores on Main Street in the North End and Fairfield Avenue in the West End. The property is on the former Dewhirst Dairy site. In the mid 1990s, property owner United Properties, a Fairfield-based commercial real estate firm, proposed leasing the space to Stop & Shop. Former City Councilman Tom White was among many neighbors who vehemently opposed the super store in a heavy residential area. The city’s Planning & Zoning Commission approved the site for development. Years later two principals of United Properties would enter guilty pleas to unrelated charges in the federal probe of former Mayor Joe Ganim. In fact, the Stop & Shop zoning matter was the reason federal authorities began a municipal investigation.
During the heated zoning hearings White was the president of the North End Association, the neighborhood group that opposed the development on grounds that it was spot zoning and out of character with the neighborhood. White was speaking too loudly for United Properties and in an effort to silence him officials led by Al Lenoci Sr. sued White for slander forcing him to hire an attorney. White received assistance from the ACLU as a result of a First Amendment issue. The lawsuit was dismissed with a settlement covering White’s legal fees.
Ultimately a Superior Court judge ruled the P&Z Commission had the power to change zoning for the development.
Stop & Shop officials say poor sales led to the decision to close the Madison Avenue store. This came as a surprise to many neighbors who believed the store had lots of activity.