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Aug 30, 2012 10:21 AM

Globe reports Whole Foods looking to buy chunk of Johnnie's Foodmaster stores

(Although these are both chains, one is local to Boston so I think this is the right board.)

I have mixed feelings about this. This only affects one store I regularly shop, one that I am not a big fan of (Arlington), and another which is pretty nice but further away (Melrose) and their stores could use a bit of love and care so maybe the family is ready for an out as the article suggests. However, Johnnie's does have a solid product set (old school meat cutters offering some variety cuts, decent salt cod, some decent sausage and deli products, gray corned beef and _ribs_, italian-oriented canned goods, beano's sub dressing, ok produce staples). I love when they have sales for un-cut "sirloin tips" because you can usually find a piece of flap-meat that is tender, nicely marbled, and get to cut it to your own liking. I even like their Italian sub with cut to order meats, although the (house baked) bread is a bit odd and the Beacon Street store can be good for beer 12-packs. I can't imagine the remaining stores keeping up the same variety, purchasing power, or even freshness (a real problem with their closed West Medford store) if they drop 60% of their locations. Plus a couple of remaining locations are close to competitors like Market Basket (Medford), McKinnon's (Somerville Alewife), Price Rite (Lynn) and South Weymouth is pretty far away. Seems to me that this either spells them respinning the stores into something else upscale or they otherwise get sold/closed too. That would be a true bummer because while not fashionable, Johnnie's is pretty unique product wise and they will be missed.

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  1. No way! I live across the street from the Beacon Street store and that's where I do most of my shopping. It's nice because whenever I go to a huge supermarket I end up buying a bunch of crap I don't need, but at Johnnie's I can just stick to the basics. The produce isn't great, but I do like the deli and meats -- and those uncut sirloin tips are on sale next week so I'm all over that!

    If I want to go to Whole Foods I just walk to Prospect Street. I guess I can always do my basic shopping at Star Market or Market Basket, but man it's really nice to be able to run across the street and buy a 12-pack anytime I need to.

    Who wants to start another WHOSE FOODS protest with me?

    12 Replies
    1. re: camberville

      The carpeting at the Beacon Street Foodbastard would be sorely missed. This area needs another WF like we need a hole in the head.

      1. re: Gabatta

        On the other hand, if Whole Foods wanted to buy out the Porter Square Shaw's, I would not be that upset. That place has a special place in heck...

        1. re: Bob Dobalina

          If they promise to build a garage for additional parking and improve traffic flow I am on board!

          1. re: Bob Dobalina

            In my circles we call that place "Breakup Shaws" because we've all had fights with our significant others there and have seen countless other couples fighting...I think it's the layout or some kind of curse.

            1. re: mathteacher

              That's hilarious. Totally going to borrow that...
              My guess for the reason: Because you start realizing what a cheap sob your significant other is when they balk at paying $.50 over market for the organic yogurt you really wanted...

              1. re: mathteacher

                That location is cursed. Even 30+ years ago, the management guaranteed that there would always be the longest lines possible, no matter the hour of the day. It was a black hole for time.

          2. re: camberville

            Not me. I cannot begin to express how much I would love a Whole Foods in the Melrose market, although I'd strongly prefer the Shaws be bulldozed over the Johnnie's Foodmaster.

            1. re: drbangha

              Agreed abouit Shaws. Closing Johnnies will not make me give my business to Shaws. I buy a 24 can box of cat food every week, and Shaws is more than 2 dollars higher than Johnnies.

              1. re: drbangha

                With a Market Basket and Trader Joe's nearby I'd love to have Whole Foods enter the picture in town. We shopped at WF on Prospect St when it was Bread and Circus so we're long time fans of the store. It will be a pleasure not to have to travel to other towns to buy various items we like. Others may not agree with me but careful planning/shopping can prevent grocery bill shock at the end of the month...

                1. re: Gio

                  Why aren't you shopping at the Harvest Food Coop 2 blocks away, for 1/3 the price?

                  1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                    I used to shop at Harvest as well but the Reading MB and the various farms (Connors, Tendercrop, Wilson) are what we like now...

                2. re: drbangha

                  Completely agree about Shaw's in Melrose. JF in Melrose started bright, but has become sad (and JF's meat has gone WAY downhill - they won't even cop to "Choice" vs "Select" and merely advertise "Steakhouse Quality" which to my mind is assumed to be Select - JF is worse than Market Basket in that regard, which is always crystal-clear about labelling beef grades). Both should be euthanized, though elders in town love being overcharged for bad value at both locations. Neither is a value store like Market Basket or Price Rite, and neither is a quality-for-price store like Roche Bros, Wegmans or, rather differently, Whole Foods (which, btw, should have gone many years ago into the old Purity/Star/Shaw's location now occupied by Ocean State Job Lots at the eastern end of the Lynn Fells Pkwy at Rte 1).

              2. I saw this article this am, and am sad!! I shop at the Johnnies in Melrose. As you said- it is nice to shop in a store that has real meat cutters. Just bought a corned beef there last week. Love their 5 for $19.99 meat sales- love to stick up on cutlets for parms and piccatta. All of their greeting cards are 99 cents- a huge savings over the course of a year. Lots of elderly shop there and seem to like their prepared meals. If it does close, I will not be shopping at WF- will make the trek to hannafords in Saugus or MB in Reading.

                23 Replies
                1. re: macca

                  In the case of Melrose its also a pretty easy trek to the Hilltop Butcher, which is a bit depressing, but if you look hard enough there are decent finds and a pretty decent overlap with Foodmaster meat products (not deli, though, although some decent sausage options sometimes). There also is Dom's in Malden, but their prices outside of the sausages are pretty high and mainly pre-marinated meats. My fear would be that something like the Alewife Foodmaster might become a good option for Shaws if the other locations get sold, which would be a real downgrade. Similar to camberville I use Foodmaster for a lot of my day-to-day shopping not just a missing item and while I would never do a "month shopping" trip there, I probably do spend as much money there (and independent green-grocers/butchers) as I do at Market Basket and sometimes more.

                  1. re: itaunas

                    Totally agree. I won't shop at Shaw's (not a fan of loyalty cards), so if that is what happens to Alewife I'll be stuck schlepping out to MB in Somerville or up in Burlington. BAH!

                    1. re: Dea

                      Not sure about Shaw's but there's a "loyalty card" trick I know at Stop and Shop - if you use the self-checkout lanes, if you bring up the produce list, the top left has an option, "I Forgot My Card." You tick that and you get the same deals. (I think it is under the Produce - it may be one of the other main menu items.)

                      1. re: Bob Dobalina

                        If you ever pay by some method other than cash it doesn't really matter if you use one of those cards or not. For instance, if you pay by CC they'll just track you by that instead.

                        Besides, with modern machine learning techniques it's probably only a matter of time before they can identify you fairly uniquely based on what you purchased :)

                        1. re: jgg13

                          Oh yeah, it's not the tracking that's an issue for me. I just hate having extra crap in my wallet, always forget to put it back, crap on my keychain, etc., just so I can save $.50.

                          1. re: Bob Dobalina

                            I've always just asked the cashier to scan a card for me. It's never been a problem.

                            1. re: Bob Dobalina

                              Ah, fair enough. I fall in the same boat then. Laziness, not paranoia :)

                              Many moons ago it was paranoia, so I purchased everything in cash with those cards.

                              1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                If you don't have your card handy, you can always just give them your phone #.

                                1. re: bear

                                  Which number? My home number? My cell? The cell I had when I got that card 10 years ago? My wife's cell? I HAVE NO IDEA!!!

                                  1. re: L2k

                                    Which ever number you put on the application. I use my land line, since we never answer it unless we recognize the number.

                                2. re: Bob Dobalina

                                  Same here. I've made my peace with the tracking stuff - I accept that we now live in the age of Big Brother. Still annoying though!

                            2. re: Dea

                              It's not like they verify the name or address you give to get a card. Or you could do like I've been doing for the last 10 years and use a card you found on a 71 bus heading down Mt. Auburn Street...

                              1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                Do you have keys attached to that card? I wonder what happens if it gets dropped in a mailbox.

                                  1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                    Many of those tags say "if found, drop in any mailbox." when I thought I had lost my keys a few years ago, with a dozen such tags attached, I researched this, and in fact apparently stores do collect keys and contact the people whose names are registered to the tags. At some point I should test this by dropping old keys into mailboxes with tags attached.

                                    1. re: KWagle

                                      Oh. I've never seen that on a loyalty card, including any of the ones currently on my keychain. Old motel room keys, yeah...

                                      1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                        Of the 9 loyalty cards on my keyring at the moment, 6 have that written on them.

                                1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                  Yup, my Shaw's card is one I found on the ground outside the store shortly after they changed over from a Star Market the first time.

                              2. re: itaunas

                                Like you, I do my day to day stuff at Johnnies- milk, cream, cat food, some of their meats. I also shop Trader Joes, Hannafords, Pace's if I need cold cuts and the Farmers Market when in season. Ii would miss at- as it is an easy trip to make. I also feel bad for the elderly that shop there. Those without cars now have the option of Shaws and Johnnies- it would be a shame to take that away.

                                1. re: itaunas

                                  Hilltops Butcher shop is closed. It says for renovations and will open in Spring of 2013 but I heard a rumor the place may be closing for good.

                                  1. re: MeffaBabe

                                    About a month ago, I heard the restaurant had closed. Maybe it was a hint of what was coming. Havent been to either the butcher shop or the restaurant in more years than I can remember. In the butcher shop, I used to like their coffee. In the summer, they would often have whole skinless, boneless turkey breasts. Used to love them- bought them and cubed them for the grill.

                                    1. re: macca

                                      Hilltop Steakhouse is open, if you can trust their website, and advertising Thanksgiving dinner and their winter menu.

                                      1. re: L2k

                                        Their web site states:

                                        "Our Saugus Butcher Shop will be closed on September 5th, 2012 for renovations
                                        and will re-open Late Spring of 2013!"

                                        The Weymouth store is still open, apparently...

                              3. Yeah, I can't fathom why WF would want to open another outlet on Beacon when the Prospect St outlet is so close. I'm also concerned about the Alewife Parkway Johnnie's which is my closest supermarket. So convenient for picking up that one ingredient I forgot to buy for a recipe, and stuff like that. I am not thrilled with this development at all.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Dea

                                  And that Alewife Parkway one is very close to the Medford WF, is it not? Seems strange.

                                  1. re: GretchenS

                                    Indeed! It's not on the list of those that WF is buying / converting, so I'm not sure what its fate will be. Bah.

                                  2. re: Dea

                                    I'm guessing you are closer to the Foodmaster there than the Medford Whole Foods. I'm in between the two and chose Whole Foods every time for the ingredient or two type of thing. The only thing that gets me into that Foodmaster is the Redbox machine...and even then, I hit the button to open the sliders by the registers so I don't have to walk through the entire store just to get to the exit.

                                    1. re: Dea

                                      Yeah, me neither. Although I've been in Somerville long enough to remember when the Johnie's on Alewife didn't carry yogurt or rye bread, and all other stores had started carrying these things.

                                    2. We shop at the Brookline Beacon Street at St Mary's T stop Johnnies. We already heard a WF was coming to the Fenway soon. I think between that one, the Symphony store and the Washington St/Brighton store, the area will be saturated . Where will I buy my 99 cents a pound chicken and get a roll of quarters? Not in WF!

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Berheenia

                                        Why do they call that one Johnnie's Fresh?

                                        1. re: nightsky

                                          Johhnies Foodmaster came in ~2004 and replaced a short lived semi organic grocery store and were trying to preserve the organic aura. They do maintain a lot more organic and soy based vegetarian stuff than most little stores. This is of course my two cents on the name.
                                          Before either of these there was a much loved or hated local market called the Beacon Market that was there forever and when it folded the neighborhood was desperate to get another small full service grocery store. Johnnies has filled the bill beautifully.

                                          1. re: Berheenia

                                            Totally agree JF is a great asset to the neighborhood. And their prices are reasonable. I wish they baked bread in the store the way they did when they first opened. Beacon Market predates me but I do remember the WholeFoods wannabe that preceded Johnnies. It was awful.

                                            1. re: Berheenia

                                              I LOVED the Beacon supermarket. I used to cross the river to get my coffee beans there.

                                        2. I shop in the Salem St. Medford Johnnie's and that is a pretty decent store. In fact, they just spruced it up a bit with new paint and lighting. It's a good size, has no self checkouts, no annoying loyalty cards. The prices are definitely lower than the Stop and Shop in Winchester and I find it has about as much variety as that huge Stop and Shop in the Fellsway Plaza. I buy most of my meat at McKinnon's, but I really like Johnnie's sausage -- more so than Dom's or McKinnon's.

                                          I do go to the West Medford WF once in a while, to pick up some things (it is closer to me) or for specialty items. I don't have anything against WF ( In fact Olivia's Organic Salad is cheaper there than at Johnnie's), but I couldn't see doing all of my shopping there -- What, no Cheez-Its?!.

                                          Salem St. is not slated to be taken over by WF, but it seems like the writing is on the wall for it. I wonder who would take it over. Hopefully, Market Basket. There is already a Shaw's and Stop & Shop close by.