Two well-known businesses in the Androscoggin River Valley — Citizens Bank in Berlin and the Save A Lot Food Store in neighboring Gorham — have announced their imminent closings.
Citizens Bank, which has operated a branch on Pleasant Street in the heart of downtown Berlin since 1990, said in an email Wednesday to the Union Leader that it will close on Nov. 20, calling the action a “business decision.”
Meanwhile, a couple miles down Route 16, Save A Lot Food Store will shut its doors on Sept. 3.
John Hammontree, president of Buckeye Foods LLC, which also owns Save A Lot food stores in three Maine communities, said in a statement that over the “past several years,” sales at the Gorham store “have softened and expenses have increased,” adding that the lease on the space is expiring and that therefore “the time has come to close the store.”
Hammontree said he bought the business 10 years ago when it was Butson’s Supermarket from Shaw’s Supermarkets, which planned to close it because of poor sales and profitability. He praised both customers and employees, saying the latter “are some of the nicest and hardest-working people I know and I wish them all the very best.”
Barb Brouillette, the manager of the Gorham Save A Lot, said Tuesday that the store has six full-time and seven part-time employees. When it closes next Tuesday, any remaining inventory will be transferred to Hammontree’s other stores.
“I’ve been in this building for 36 years,” said Brouillette, starting when it was an IGA, then Butson’s before Shaw’s acquired that chain in 2003.
“It’s sad,” Brouillette said. “A lot of customers are very upset about it because our prices were good.” She said the store was known for its monthly meat sales.
With the closing of Save A Lot, Brouillette said shoppers in the area now have two choices for groceries: the Berlin Marketplace in Berlin and the Walmart superstore in Gorham. For soon-to-be former Save A Lot employees, “it means job hunting for all of us,” she said.
Gabe Martinez, a media relations specialist with Citizens Financial Group, said the five employees working at the Berlin Citizens branch will be encouraged to apply for open positions within the company.
Although the branch will close, Citizens Bank will maintain an ATM at the Berlin location, Martinez said, adding that the bank also offers “many services through Online and Mobile Services including mobile deposit.”
That said, Citizens Bank customers who want to do their banking in person will have to do some driving, since the next closest branches are in Colebrook, North Conway and Lincoln.
Northway Bank, whose Berlin branch is on Main Street, located within a stone’s throw of the Citizens Bank, is offering another option, with large exterior signs proclaiming “Welcome Citizens Bank Customers.”
Martinez said Citizens Bank understands “that this closure changes the banking landscape in Berlin. We take this into consideration when determining our branch actions in each market, but based on overall assessment of our branch business and real estate strategy, occasionally we have to make the business decision to close a branch.”