Sterling Market grand opening emphasizes power of community


Mariah Howland

Governor Shumlin speaks at the ribbon cutting of Johnson’s Sterling Market.

After two years of negotiating, planning, and renovating, the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony was held at Johnson’s Sterling Market on Oct. 3 and was attended by local and state officials as well as many excited community members.

“Without a supermarket it was like not having a heart,” said President and CEO of Pomerleau Realty, Ernie Pomerleau. “And working with your [town] officials and the state officials, I have never seen so much collaboration and so much support. The idea of being able to provide a community with its heart again took a couple of years…but in the end we are here.”

The refurbished market was formerly a Grand Union which sat vacant since flooding in April 2011. Through the combined town, state, and federal efforts of Pomerleau Realty, who owns the property, entrepreneur Mike Comeau, who also owns markets in Richmond and Waterbury, The Town of Johnson which has provided loans and tax stabilization to Comeau , and Gov. Shumlin and his administration who helped to secure state and federal funds, the market has come to fruition.

“This is about ‘Vermont Strong,’ saying that when floods hit, when disaster hits, we are going to rebuild our community better than the way that storm found us, that’s what this is all about,” said Governor Shumlin. “Second this is about our commitment to our downtowns. All over America they are building big boxes on their agricultural land and in Vermont we are reinforcing, rebuilding and redesigning our downtowns and this is yet another reason why we do it right. And third and finally it is about community. What makes our quality of life so special in this state, why neighbors take care of neighbors, and strangers reach out to strangers is that we get together in places like this and know each other, shop together, enjoy community together, raise our children together, that’s what it’s all about. Now, let’s buy local every single time.”

The new market opened its doors for the first time on Oct. 1 at 7 a.m. and from then until 11 a.m. on Oct. 3 at the grand opening, over 2,000 people had already visited. It was obvious that the closing of the Grand Union supermarket had been a great loss to the community over the past few years. The drive to the nearest grocery store in Morrisville was nine miles which inconvenienced many community members without transportation and even community members who had transportation but didn’t want to make the trip.

“Last night I was home and I was making spaghetti and I didn’t have any shaking cheese,” said Johnson Town Manager Duncan Hastings. “And I didn’t have any salad, and my first thought was ‘well, I’m going to have to do without because I’m not driving into Morrisville for that,’ and then it hit me, I could go here…that is phenomenal and that is what it means to our community to have this here.”

Sterling Market features an array of local and organic products as well as conventional grocery items that are competitively priced. The market has a large selection of beer and wine, a fresh sea food station, a hot food station, a full deli, an olive bar and large fresh produce section. The entire contents of the store were gutted and all new floors, ceiling and equipment were installed during renovations as well as a face-lift to the exterior of the building.

“This has been a group effort and I am really pleased with the results,” said Comeau. “And it has been really outstanding, the community really supported me the first day and it was way more customers than I thought. Great sales, everything has been really good and I look forward to being here for a long time and giving you guys the store you are looking for. And if there is anything that we can do to make the store better let me know.”

“Though the flood brought the demise of the Grand Union, and two-and-a-half years of the lack of a heart,” said Town Manager Duncan Hastings. “Today we stand here with a pulsing heart, a beautiful new store, and a new lease on life for the community in general.”

Johnson’s Sterling Market is open Mon-Sun 7 a.m. through 8 p.m.