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December 22. 2013 12:40AM

Hannaford to take over Stop & Shop's Exeter space

EXETER - Hannaford  Bros. plans to open a supermarket and pharmacy in the former Stop & Shop building this spring, the Maine-based grocery store chain announced Friday.

The supermarket will take over the 65,000-square-foot store at 141 Portsmouth Ave., that was left vacant when Stop & Shop closed its six New Hampshire stores in September.

Stop & Shop's closures came just weeks after Shaw's announced the closure of six of its grocery store locations in New Hampshire.

Market Basket is the only grocery store chain that has continued to open new stores in New Hampshire in recent years.

The new Hannaford is expected to open its Exeter location in the spring, bringing 150 jobs to the area.

It will be the only grocery store in town. It'll face competition from nearby Market Basket and Shaw's locations on Portsmouth Avenue in Stratham.

"We are excited to bring Hannaford's signature combination of low everyday prices, great variety and high-quality fresh foods to Exeter. This new store will create jobs, provide local organizations with a new community partner and make it more convenient for local customers to shop," Hannaford spokesman Eric Blom said in a press release.

Hannaford has also acquired a lease to the former Stop & Shop building in Bedford and is evaluating the site but at this point has made no announcements related to that location.

According to the company, the addition of the Exeter store will bring its total number of New Hampshire stores to 34. Hannaford will now have more grocery stores in New Hampshire than any other chain. With the new location, Hannaford will have a total of 184 supermarkets in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.

Friday's announcement came as welcome news to Exeter town officials who wanted to see the empty grocery store space filled as quickly as possible.

"They are a major player in the area, and we think they will be a great fit. We're really glad the space didn't stay vacant for too long. We have understood for a few months there was quite a bit of action on the property, but we weren't sure who it was going to be until the announcement was made. We're really looking forward to having them here," Exeter Town Manager Russell Dean said.

Hannaford will offer a pharmacy and full-service butcher shop and seafood counter, a bakery, deli, fresh produce and grocery departments, with an extensive selection of natural, organic and gluten-free items.

"Hannaford works to make shopping more convenient and affordable for customers. When great locations such as this become available, we look hard at whether a new store can help us meet our customers' needs," Blom said.

Michael Schidlovsky, president of the Exeter Area Chamber of Commerce, said he's glad the building was vacant for only a short time and that the grocery store jobs will return to Exeter.

"Hannaford has a strong presence in New Hampshire and has proven themselves to be a generous and engaging community member," he said.

Schidlovsky said the store's arrival will also bring more competition to the grocery arena.

"After all, food is one of the top three expenses for the average family and competition usually challenges the competitors to deliver better products and services at lower prices," he said.



jschreiber@newstote.com