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Shaw's > Star

The recreation of the Star Market brand in Boston is almost complete.

Over the past few weeks, most of the stores that had been converted to Shaw's and allowed to deteriorate under previous ownership have been refurbished and rebranded. The only remaining Shaw's in the inner city is the one in the Fenway where more extensive (needed) renovation is taking place. (And some city oriented Stars were never converted to Shaw's at all, such as Mt. Auburn St.)

With the change has come a shift to a more upscale mix. Self checkout lines are gone at many stores and the environment spiffed up. All of these modified stores now have beer and wine. What has also changed is prices. Star's prices are higher and sale items at Shaw's may not be available. There are now separate weekly circulars for the two chains and side-by-side comparisons are revealing. (The Shaw's circular is on standard newsprint; the Star is on glossy paper.)

Management apparently believes that those of us living inside Rt. 128 want a more upscale experience and are willing to pay for it. Some of these inner city stores have almost no competition, however, and some low income residents may be at a loss.

So what does everyone think of these changes? I have mixed reactions. While I appreciate the (long overdue) physical store improvements, I'm not sure they are worth the higher prices. And Shaw's was the highest priced local store to start with.

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  1. How can all of the stores carry beer and wine?

    2 Replies
    1. re: C. Hamster

      The one I shop at (N. Waltham/Lexington St) does NOT carry beer/wine

      1. re: C. Hamster

        They don't. The OP is completely wrong. The location on Route 30 (Comm. Ave) in Newton certainly does not sell any beer or wine. They also still (as of last week) had plenty of self checkout lines.

      2. Shaw's and Star have been part of Albertson's LLC for some time. Recently, Shaw's has been noticeably cleaner and updated, they also are on the same page with no more loyalty cards required. As for prices, well let's hope, it's certainly not my first choice for grocery purchases.

        1. The law is that 3 stores can sell alcohol. Are there more than 3 "modified" stores selling booze?

          9 Replies
          1. re: LeoLioness

            The Allston Star, at Packard's Corner, has a small separately operated liquor store within the market, which is the traditional method for getting around the law (which, I believe has been changed - isn't it now 5 stores per chain and being gradually expanded in future years?)

            Also, the self check lines have NOT been eliminated at that location, and I hope they never are. I prefer self-checkout whenever possible.

            1. re: Allstonian

              Oh, I thought the law went from 2 to 3, but I could be wrong.

              Interesting that the store-within-a-store is exempt. I was in the Twin City Plaza Star/Shaws and they had one of those, where you pay for booze separately "inside" the store.

              1. re: LeoLioness

                Allstonian is correct, it's now 5 per chain, increasing a few a year for 2-3 years. Don't remember what the final maximum will be.

                1. re: kimfair1

                  Thanks! I voted against that law the last time it was on the ballot (because I fear it will put all the supermarket-adjacent liquor stores out of business) so I haven't paid close attention to the current laws.

                  1. re: LeoLioness

                    Not to get off topic and to each his own (that's certainly the point of a democracy) but it seems awfully shortsighted to have voted against the law simply because you feared supermarkets would put some nearby package stores out of business. What about supermarkets selling seafood, how is that fair to the fish monger around the corner? Or the supermarket meat department taking business away from the nearby butcher. Or the supermarket selling toys like your local, mom and pop, main street toy store? etc. It always annoyed me to no end that I cannot pick up a bottle of red wine with my steak like you can in nearly every other place in the country. Just because something has been a certain way for a long time, doesn't make it the best way. /end rant.

                    1. re: Gordough

                      If there was a fish monger or toy store or butcher next to virtually every supermarket in MA, I might think differently about how I shop. But that's not the case. How many "main street you stores" can you name? How many boutique butchers are there in greater Boston?

                      Supermarkets aren't going out of business for lack of alcohol sales. But those small businesses sure will and I'd rather not see that, no matter how wildly inconvenient it is to walk next door to the market.

                      1. re: LeoLioness

                        There is a liquor store next to every supermarket? That is news to me. In my town and in the contiguous towns there are at least 8 grocery stores. Only one that I can think of has a liquor store "next door" or within reasonable walking distance (say 5-10 min or less).

                        and yes, my town has 2 full service supermarkets and at least 2 mom and pop toy stores along with dozens of other "main street stores" many of which sell items available in the supermarkets in town, some in adjacent/immediate vicinity store fronts too.

                        1. re: Gordough

                          Where I live there is, hence I voted as I did.

              2. re: Allstonian

                I researched that a bit and apparently the maximum allowable by law went from three to five a few years ago, and is scheduled to expand to seven in 2016, and nine in 2020.

            2. Experience from the Waltham/Lexington street store
              Mixed feelings:
              1) Self-checkout: I was initially really upset that they took this out, as I usually just get a few things and want to breeze on out of there. But, in all fairness, they have setup extra express lanes and always have extra people working them quickly. So it hasn't been that annoying. My husband pointed out that alot of stores get ripped off quite a bit via the self-checkout, so I can understand the owners not wanting them

              2) Pricing: It's a mixed bag. For fresh fish, they have some of the best prices around and the quality on many of the varieties is excellent. I usually only purchase organic produce, and their prices are pretty competitive for that, compared to WF and Wegman's.

              10 Replies
              1. re: Science Chick

                During a recent visit to the Prudential location I stood in line for about 10 minutes at an "express" checkout line to buy ONE lemon. Despite the "15 items or less signage" everyone in line in front of me had full carts and the cashier didn't care to enforce it. One more reason not to shop there.

                1. re: jules127

                  I'd shun them for putting up a sign that read "15 Items or Less".

                  1. re: jules127

                    The only time I've ever seen a cashier reject a customer it took even more time to argue than if they'd just shrug their shoulders, which since cashiers are timed I'm sure they just don't bother.

                    In my younger years when I worked at shows the cashiers would always complain about ppl who would bring on 93 cans of cat food and claim it as 1 item

                    1. re: jgg13

                      I believe the objection was grammatical. It should be "or fewer".

                      I was told by a supermarket manager that when there are multiples of the same item, the total qualifies as one item. 93 cans of the same flavor = one item. 20 cans of "mariner's meow" and the 15 cans of "poultry purr" = 2 items.

                      1. re: greygarious

                        That was *not* the case when I worked at Shaws in the early 90s. At least it wasn't supposed to be, but as I said so many people would be adamant that it should count that way that they tended to let them through.

                        1. re: jgg13

                          At some stores, they can punch in the number of replicate items, such as cans of tuna for example, and then just scan one of them. Hence, the "one item" logic behind multiples of the same.

                          1. re: Science Chick

                            The problem with that is they still need to count them. No matter how you look at it, having 92 cans of cat food *is* slower than a single can.

                            Express lanes should be for people with simple orders. 92 cans of cat food is not a simple order.

                            1. re: jgg13

                              I can see both sides of that argument, but I'm wondering what you'd say about someone who has half a dozen oranges in a produce bag. Is that six items or one? What if they're not in a bag?

                              1. re: BobB

                                depends on if the items are charged per item or per weight. The moment the cashier needs to either a) scan multiple items or b) count how many are in there it counts as multiple items.

                2. No big changes in the suburbs. The Melrose Shaw's has moved products around ( no idea why!-maybe to make the shoppers go up/down every aisle and spend more money!). Still have self check registers, and no beer/wine sales.

                  1. I live near the Quincy Star market. When it was built originally, it was a "Star Market PLUS", which I guess was their upscale version. It was never rebranded to Shaw's. Since I've been living in Quincy, that store has been on a long, depressing downhill slide. I think it hit bottom two years ago, just about the time that BJ's opened down the street.

                    Even though I can walk to that Star from my house, I'd drive by and go to Roche Bros or Hannaford in North Quincy to do my shopping. I've noticed that since Cerberus bought it and started the changes, it has gotten somewhat better and the selection is a bit better. But, they still have the garbage self checkout scanners, their fresh herb selection is not great (went in there yesterday for fresh Sage, didn't have any...). They FINALLY carry organic cage free eggs, which is nice, and some organic grass fed hamburg.

                    I haven't really compared prices, but over all it's not as hideous as it was a year ago. Would I LOVE to see them sell it to Wegman's, or to Market Basket (if MB ever rises from the dead), absolutely. It's still fourth out of my four choices to shop.

                    1. The Porter Square Star/Shaws has seen a big improvement. I'm still not used to the new shelf arrangement, but I'm definitely seeing lower prices (or, at least, more items on sale), much more friendly and helpful staff, better deli/butcher food, an above-average new hot bar and revamped produce section, and an overall nicer environment -- cleaner shelves, fresh paint, classical music, fewer broken fixtures, etc.

                      What's not so great? I really hate that they removed the self-service registers. Despite the signs that laughably say "never more than 3 people in any aisle, we promise!!" there's always long lines. Some of the produce and meat is crazily expensive ($1 per lime?). Still no shortage of crazy people doing awful things in the store.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Boston_Otter

                        I agree, Otter. Prices are lower, not higher, at least at the Mt. Auburn Star I go to. Big upgrade in last six months in terms of cleanliness and store personality: you get the feeling that management wants to provide a positive shopping experience, so the employees are super-eager to please, the prices on many items have decreased and the quality of many prepared in-store foods have improved (those chicken wings are pretty tasty when you're too lazy to cook).
                        And I don't miss the self-service check out, which required assistance from an employee at least half the time. At Mt. Auburn, the "never more than 3 people" promise is working most of the time.

                        1. re: katzzz

                          My impression of their prices is that overall, prices have crept up a bit and have gone way up on a few select items, but sale items are far more plentiful than before and a very good deal. If I stick to sale items then I save money vs. Shaw's. But if I need limes, I'll go to Pemberton Farms where they cost 1/4 as much.

                          1. re: Boston_Otter

                            That's how I felt at the Twin City Plaza Shaws/Star. The sales prices on many items made them very reasonable, and sales were plentiful enough that I could get a deal on pretty much everything on my list, if I was willing to be flexible on brands.

                      2. Last week they had a birthday sale and had watermelons for 3.88 each. Later on in the week they were 7.99! I find Shaws to be the worst of them all. The products are not very interesting but the Shaws in Newton I think is the worst. The management is so unfriendly and they are the ones who have been working there forever. Thankfully Newton now has a new choice and many times I will go to Sudbury Farms in Needham.

                        1. Not really interested in the cosmetics. I asked one of the associates about the Essentials store line, and he said that was staying. I was glad about that because I like those products, and they seem to be the same as the Publix store brand which is a well-run chain.

                          Frankly I am very glad to see they brought back cashiers and got rid of the self-check out. I frequently noticed things that people had left behind from their transaction in the bagging area, and I appreciate the interaction and having a person there.

                          1. If anything, I've been finding the prices lower at Star since Cerberus took over, not higher. And as noted, the self-checkout stations remain at the Packards Corner store, and I hope they continue to be there.

                            As noted elsewhere, the change I'm most pleased with is the house-made tortilla chips, which are absolutely delicious.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                              Those tortilla chips are fabulous! I do think things have improved at Packard's Corner and at Brighton Landing since the re-branding.

                            2. The removal of the self checkout annoys the hell out of me. At twin city plaza they turned 4 self services into 2 express lanes. Not only are the lanes cut in half vut most times the manned lanes seem to go slower than the self lanes did.

                              1. I'm in Fenway and I haven't noticed a big change in prices at Shaw's, there are still plenty of the usual sales that I'm used to. The store has gone through some major changes in the last couple months, and it's turning out really nicely (I do miss those self-checkout lanes though!). I just thought they were revamping the space in preparation for competition with the incoming CityTarget and Wegman's.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: midnightboom

                                  I am close to Fenway as well and that store is an unusual one. The renovations are so substantial that it will take several weeks longer. It will still be rebranded as a Star Market eventually but they are gearing up for the competition. They are currently adding a Starbucks in the store! At present, they are still operating as a Shaw's with the suburban weekly specials. That will change with the rebranding.

                                2. I have given up trying to figure out the Shaws/Star logic, but I visit at both the Fenway and South Boston stores - prices are still not in line with Stop & Shop, but utilizing the circular, you can get some good buys. I have also noted that the staff in both stores seem to be going out of their way to be helpful and cheerful - after running the misery gauntlet at the South Bay S&S, it's almost unnerving to have someone smile at you or say "thank you" after your purchase.

                                  1. I heard about the changes and went to the Belmont Star Market (less than a mile from home) for the first time in several years (not counting one or two emergency runs when there was no other choice and I needed a specific thing). While the produce seemed less wilted, that's not saying much. The prices were outrageous. $1.99 for a pound of regular yellow onions (twice!!! the price for the same thing at the Fresh Pond Whole Foods, imagine!); $2.49 for a two-pound bag. I saved so much money by shopping at the Burlington Market Basket that the drive was worth it. Even the Market Basket boycott has not gotten me back in that Star Market. Of course if/when Artie T returns I will be back to my regular routine; until then there is the Russo's/nearby Stop and Shop combo. If all else fails, in two months there will be the Burlington Wegman's.

                                    1. The Twin City Plaza location is cleaner but that's about it for improvements. They have taken away many of my dairy free items like Earth Balance, removed the self-checkout and have no clue how to expedite the Express Lanes. I waited for over 15 minutes today in one of them. It's true- if a customer buys 8 packages of ribs, they seem to count as one item, even though all 8 need to be swiped. And of course, the same customer has 5 watermelons, 5 packages of chicken wings and 8 packages of Pepsi, each needing to be scanned. And let's not forget the 10 boxes of cereal. Somehow this equals 15 items so the Express Lane is where these shoppers go.

                                      The liquor store at this location is horrible. I can't really begin to describe how bad it is without getting a headache.

                                      Do you need cold cuts? Be prepared to wait for those. I gave up today after waiting for 12 minutes (yes I timed it) as they had one person working and lots of people jumping ahead of any semblance of a line.

                                      Wish I could be more positive, as this place is close to my home, but it really is not any kind of an "upscale experience" in my mind.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: mvi

                                        Liquor store at the Twin City Star location? Do you mean the one on the other side of McGrath?

                                        1. re: smtucker

                                          No, there's actually a tiny liquor store within the grocery store, to the right of the registers. You must purchase your hooch in it, not at the register with your other purchases.

                                          And I agree with mvi that it's awful. I ended up just walking over to the one across McGrath anyway, after being unable to find what I wanted there (cold Mexican beer and cold halfway decent white wine. You know, really esoteric stuff.)

                                          1. re: LeoLioness

                                            Amazing. Never, ever noticed this. Is it behind the cut flowers? Or on the side with the ever-helpful Information desk? [I really dislike this store, but might actually have to go inside to find this area. How could I have missed it?]

                                            1. re: smtucker

                                              Actually, it's where the cut flowers were. The size of the flower area has been reduced. Also, it's only beer and wine.

                                              1. re: smtucker

                                                I would not recommend an extra trip just to check this liquor store out unless you want to initiate some kind of mood swing into a dark area. It is convenient and it is open late on Sunday nights unlike standard liquor stores, but aside from those features, it's not worth a visit. Try Sav-Mor Liquor across the highway or Al's on Cambridge Street. (Al's has improved, but still only carries beer and wine.)

                                                Yes, the beer is now where the flowers used to be and the flowers are in an ill-defined area right next to their former turf.

                                        2. Just stopped in my neighborhood Star on Mt. Auburn Street and – OMG! – they're putting in a Starbucks (a little beyond the express checkout lane, near the newish "dining" area). It's under construction, close to finished, not much more than a counter, about the size of the Starbucks in the Watertown Target. Maybe it'll catch the overflow when Sofra gets too crowded, ha ha.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: katzzz

                                            The Packard's Corner (Allston) Star had a Starbuck's back when it opened in 1995-96, which lasted for close to 10 years. It was in the space that is now the liquor store at the front of the building.

                                            1. re: Allstonian

                                              And I still miss it, because as meh as Starbucks' coffee is (although I actually don't hate the Pike Place blend), it did make a handy meeting point.

                                            2. re: katzzz

                                              They have added Starbucks at the Morrisey Blvd store adjacent to JFK.

                                            3. A follow-up:

                                              The Fenway Shaw's converted to a Star yesterday (Sept. 5).

                                              It is an extreme makeover. In addition to updating and freshening the overall store, they have added:
                                              -An aisle devoted to hard liquor, beer and wine. (Not a separate space).
                                              -A fresh fish counter.
                                              -Extensive prepared foods (Star la carte)
                                              -A Starbucks.

                                              In order to fit everything in, there appears to be less of a selection on regular grocery shelves.

                                              The Star sale items are still more expensive than those at Shaw's. The new layout suggests a convenience orientation.

                                              The remaining Shaw's near downtown are in East Boston and over the Pike in Newton.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: BBHound

                                                Hmm...I live in West Roxbury and we still have a Shaw's right down the street. There have been some minor changes in the market, but really just around shifting the aisles where goods are located and an expanded prepared foods section.