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TOUR: Key Food Marketplace - Waterbury, CT

Key Food Marketplace
Owner: Saleh Hassen
Open: 2019-2022
Previous Tenants: Town Plot IGA (1960s-2019)
Later Tenants: Banana Fresh Market (2022-2023) > Key Food (2024- )
Cooperative: Key Food Stores
Location: 286 Fairfield Ave, Waterbury, CT
Photographed: July 9, 2021
Oh boy. This is one of those stores. For a long time, it was the Town Plot IGA, opening in the 1960s and finally closing after a good long run in 2019. Later the same year, Key Food opened up in the spot, owned by Saleh Hassen. The Hassens were also working on a store across town at the corner of Grove and Cooke, next door to a former CTown that burned down. That store was supposed to be called Waterbury Farms and was projected to open in 2017, but as of 2023, the store is up for sale or lease. The family's other Waterbury store, this Key Food, was short-lived, perhaps deterring them from pursuing the Waterbury Farms store. The Town Plot Key Food opened in 2019 but closed in 2022, shortly thereafter becoming the independent Banana Fresh Market. Banana Fresh was ASG-affiliated upon opening, but in 2023, joined Key Food but kept its name. Banana Fresh then closed in late 2023. Most recently, in late January 2024, the store reopened as a Key Food once again. The (well-run and apparently successful) Key Food stores in and around Hartford are under different ownership from this one, and this store's new owners also have a CTown here in CT. Let's go back in time to 2021...
Now let's tour the Key Food! Town Plot IGA had renovated the store right before they closed, or at least within a few years before their closure, so Key Food did very little upon moving in. The fixtures visible here, of course, were all from Town Plot, as was the decor. The decor was apparently kept by Banana Fresh Market, too, as we can see from the commercial I linked above. Key Food put in new aisle markers, which are also visible in the Banana Fresh commercial. The new Key Food owners did a much more significant renovation, and although the decor is mostly the same, the fixtures, flooring, and lighting were replaced.
Banana Fresh did make some small changes to the 20,000 square foot store, such as hanging the produce sign over the middle of this aisle and replacing the produce islands in the middle, but that's about it. Then again, also visible in that Banana Fresh commercial is a Town Plot IGA sign that made it through this Key Food's ownership and then into Banana Fresh, too. It looks like all older tenants' signage has been removed now.
Produce was in the first aisle on the right side of the store, with the meat department on the back wall. Over on the left side of the store, dairy was on the inside of the last aisle with bakery and deli on the outside. Frozen was in the front left corner.
Key Food had done some small changes, such as replacing grocery shelving and resetting the grocery aisles. But the store still felt in-progress, such as these water bottles stacked behind the refrigerator cases instead of actual shelving in the first aisle. The aisle markers were new, though, and had the Key Food Marketplace logo. Here's a small look at what the store previously looked like, and there are some pictures from 2014 showing Town Plot's new renovation on Yelp.
This is definitely the old-school of Key Food -- it reminded me of some of the stores Key Food owners took over from Grand Union. As we'll see, it bears more similarity to those stores (like Milford, before its change in ownership and renovation) than the newer Key Food stores in central CT.
The store had the feeling of an old supermarket, though, which is something even Town Plot's rather attractive renovation couldn't really fix.
It was pretty obvious to me that this store wasn't doing well when I visited, though, with examples like the beer gone from the beer department and replaced with minimal baked goods. The store no longer had an in-store bakery, and many of the cases previously holding fresh baked goods were either empty or filled with pre-packaged stuff.
The bakery was in the back left corner of the store, with deli on the left side wall.
Here's an overview of the last aisle of the store, with dairy opposite these service counters.
The flooring here was replaced by Town Plot, but we can tell the fixtures are definitely on the older side.
I will say this, though, the Key Food was quite clean and most of the store was pretty well-stocked.  But there were obvious signs the store was struggling, such as the fact that my pictures appear to have captured exactly one other customer. Frozen foods in a very retro setup in the front left corner...
The rest of the front wall has the registers, with customer service at the other side of the front-end.
Here's a look across the overly-spacious front end, and we can again tell the store felt very dated by its time under Key Food 1.0...
We'll have to see how the new Key Food owners do (although I have to wonder why they're not just calling the store something else, like SuperFresh or Food Universe, since I have to assume people will associate the name Key Food with the prior ownership), and I'll be back to check it out! This is the only supermarket in Waterbury's Town Plot neighborhood, and there are relatively few stores in the southern part of the city. Tomorrow we're going to see one of the other ones, a Compare Foods, in southern Waterbury!

Comments

  1. Good question on the name - perhaps due to what you said (the only store in that neighborhood and not too many others nearby), they figured that people would at least come in and check it out no matter the name (and also knowing it had a different name in between may indicate to people that this has no connection to prior owners that used the name).

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