Neighbors, Springfield officials laud addition of Pride store, fresh foods to Mason Square
SPRINGFIELD — Neighborhood residents and local officials praised the new Pride store on State Street Wednesday, saying it has brought greatly needed healthy food options and jobs to Mason Square.
During the grand opening ceremony, many residents and officials thanked Pride Stores CEO Robert Bolduc for their investment in the neighborhood, which has a large minority population and many low-income residents.
Bolduc said that working with local residents and officials, his focus was on providing fresh, healthy foods and to hire as many local residents as possible. The 4,800-square-foot store has approximately 40 employees.
“This lot went empty for a long time,” said Brandi Gamble, a neighborhood resident and mother of three. “When they said Pride was coming here I was actually kind of excited. I eat at the deli all the time. I grab milk from here. You can get produce, you can get a sandwich, you can get a chicken. It’s nice to have something and it’s always clean over here as well.”
The Pride Store and gas station includes ready-to-go fresh foods including sandwiches and salads, a deli, a full bakery, fresh produce, full grill, Chester’s chicken, Subway restaurant, fountain drinks, convenience store, and drive-through.
There are also electric charging stations in the rear of Pride and plans for construction of a park in a rear lot, he said.
Mason Square has been referred to as a “fresh food desert” over the years due to its limited availability of healthy, fresh foods, particularly for poorer people including those without cars..
The store is at 700 State St., at the corner of Thompson Street, on the site of the former River Inn. The site was purchased by Develop Springfield in 2013 and torn down before its sale to Pride.
Bolduc said the Pride store “was one of our ways of giving back” to the community by providing local jobs to young people. Many, including minorities start with entry jobs and work their way into management, he said.
“I think this is perfect,” said Matthew Windoloski, another neighborhood resident. “This is a very convenient morning stop for me on the go. “The staff is excellent. I think it’s a very good addition to Mason Square.”
“I’m thrilled,” said Liz O’Gilvie, a resident and member of the Springfield Food Policy Council. “At first I was worried. We didn’t need one more gas station of fast food establishment. But Bob was really responsive in every suggestion i made on healthy food, the playground. He was incredibly responsive.”
O’Gilvie said she and Bolduc continue to communicate to discuss any suggestions or concerns. Bringing fresh foods to the neighborhood was her top priority, she said.
Local officials who took part in the grand opening included Mayor Domenic J. Sarno; U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield; City Councilors Malo Brown and Jesse Lederman; state Rep. Bud Williams, D-Springfield; state Sen. James Welch, D-West Springfield; and representatives of various neighborhood organizations.
The Mason Square is at the junction of the McKnight, Bay, Old Hill and Upper Hill neighborhoods.
Pride has more than 30 gas station convenience stores, with more than half of its employees being minorities, Bolduc said.