What once was the neighborhood Benny’s location on Warwick Avenue will become a larger Ocean State Job Lot serving the northern end of the city by Labor Day.
The Carpionato Group – which bought 29 Benny’s stores after the chain closed in 2017 – announced Wednesday the sale of the Warwick Avenue store and the lease of stores in Cranston and Wakefield to Ocean State Job Lot, which was founded by three young men 40 years ago when they each invested $500 in their enterprise.
In the cavernous former Benny’s at 148 Atwood Ave. in Cranston, K. MacArthur Coates, president and CEO of Carpionato Group, was joined at a podium by Marc Perlman, principal owner and CEO of Ocean State Job Lot, to outline what he described as an agreement reached by Rhode Islanders for the benefit of the state.
“This is a confluence of Rhode Island families,” Coates said, adding, “Job Lot is like Benny’s, a Rhode Island institution where consumers know they can go to find quality merchandise they need at affordable prices.”
“Our goals in purchasing these locations were to ensure they would remain a go-to neighborhood resource and would be positioned for long-term success. Ocean State Job Lot has a long-track record of community investment and involvement, and we know that, like Benny’s before them, they will provide services to these neighborhoods, jobs in these neighborhoods and pay real estate taxes in these three cities for many years to come,” he continued.
According to John Conforti, Job Lot chief financial officer, the former Benny’s store on Warwick Avenue should be ready to open sometime around Labor Day. It will replace the Job Lot store that is now across from the Governor Francis Shopping Center and was formally an IGA supermarket. Andrew Sholes, whose family owns the property and who was on hand for the announcement, said he is in discussions with potential tenants for the property, including one or possibly two retailers.
Conforti said Job Lot aims to have the Cranston and Wakefield stores open by Memorial Day.
Perlman – who with his brother, Alan, and Steve Aranow started the retail outlet that now has 133 stores in New England, New York and New Jersey, with approximately 5,200 associates, and annual sales exceeding $675 million – said the former Benny’s stores will offer better work environments for Job Lot’s employees and customers.
“It’s easy to shake hands with Kelly [Coates],” Perlman said.
Actually making the stores suitable for opening is going to take a lot of work – including, as Coates pointed out, replacement lighting, HVAC and roof repairs and electrical and plumbing work.
In the case of the Cranston store, Coates noted that the parking lot will be repaved and that a house that was once part of the site has been removed. Working with the Cranston Fire Department, Coates said, the building was burned as a training exercise.
Wednesday’s announcement was the first regarding the sale or re-purposing of Rhode Island Benny’s stores acquired by Carpionato. A second announcement could come as soon as next week concerning the former Benny’s property at Wilde’s Corner.
Coates said roughly 300,000 square feet of the 900,000 square feet represented by all the Benny’s stores is under agreement as a sale or lease. He anticipates Carpionato will have agreements on 90 percent of the space by Christmas this year.
Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and South Kingstown Council President Abel Collins welcomed the news. Mattiello, who said he’d be shopping in the Cranston store, told Job Lot officials that “you make a quality of life difference.”
Fung said Job Lot is building a “lasting legacy for generations to come…but most importantly, you are serving our residents.”
In his remarks, Perlman observed that Forbes magazine named Job Lot as the “best Midsize Employer” in 2017 and 2018. He said the “business of business [used to be] just to make money” and that today, while it is also about making a profit, it’s about investing in its employees and community.
“We want people to rise to the highest level they can,” he said.
He said Job Lot expects to open 10 more stores this year. Job Lot recently acquired seven former Toys ‘R’ Us locations throughout the northeast, including in Pennsylvania, with is a new market for the company.