Benny's of EP Closes its Doors Forever
After 93 years in business, the neighborhood store that called itself "everybody's favorite store" is going out of business. Benny's president, Arnold Bromberg said the decision was inevitable. “The way the numbers added up and the way the future looked to us, the decision was unavoidable,” Bromberg said during a press conference last month. The Benny's family had reached a level whereby no one wanted to change the company style of not competing with internet shopping.
“As proud owners of Benny’s, this is an emotional time for us,” Bromberg continued in a press release. “Benny’s has been something the Bromberg family has invested enormous amounts of capital, time and energy in for nearly a century in this region. We take great pride in what our retail stores have meant to our employees and many loyal customers for so long. But it is simply time.”
“Our current ownership is all at the age where we would like to retire from the business and spend more time with our families, and we have collectively judged that the always competitive retail landscape has shifted in a way that makes it almost impossible for small, family-owned chains like ours to reasonably compete moving forward,” he said, adding that the closure will affect the company’s 715 employees, including 386 who are full-time and 329 who are part-time staff members. “We’ll miss our employees, who have been such a big part of what has made Benny’s successful for so many decades. So many of them are well-known to our customers and are literally part of the Benny’s DNA.”
The lone East Providence Benny's is right across the street from Kent Heights School. The Kent Heights Elementary School Chorus recently took part in filming a now famous commercial for Benny’s Stores. The fourth and fifth grade students were featured singing the store’s jingle “Benny's is My Favorite Store". Music teacher, Taylor Temple, was approached by Dante Bellini, Jr., Vice President of the RDW Group, to request permission to film the commercial after he became familiar with the EP Kids Rock Chorus group. “The kids had a blast,” said Temple, “and the whole thing was sort of surreal for us.” Using three cameras and professional lighting, the holiday version of the 30 second commercial was filmed at Riverside Middle School. It can be seen currently on the chorus FaceBook page.
Years ago, the one-time Taunton Avenue Benny's moved down the road to Route 44 in Seekonk, Mass., leaving just the small Kent Heights store in the city. The local store holds many memories for many local shoppers, especially at Christmas time.
Townie James Butler once managed the East Providence store and recently managed the larger Branch Avenue store in Providence. Butler tweeted out a statement: "It has been a great run. Met some wonderful People Working for BENNY'S. Know that it's not a saying "WE TRULY ARE A FAMILY". I will miss so many customers and of course fellow workers (some very close). I would not trade the experience for anything. The Owners were always special they cared for our families in many times of trouble. This is not an easy ending of an icon for RI, but it is no easier for the owners. Let's hold our heads high as we outlasted many others," said the dignified statement by Jimmy Butler.
The Benny's chain is scheduled to close down just after Christmas, its busiest season of course. However, although the small Pawtucket Avenue store was slated to close earlier on a Saturday in late September, it actually closed its doors forever on Wednesday, September 27th. The store was mobbed all day long with all parking lots at capacity and cars pulling up on the sidewalks.
Long time manager, Peter Fiore, was working hard every day, like it was staying open. We stopped in to talk with him a few days before the Wednesday closure. "It is sad but I have enjoyed my time here," he said with his usual smile. Wearing his shirt and tie as all employees of Benny's do, he moved about the store helping his customers. "Yes, I will miss this. I think the company was making money, but they didn't want to change with the times. No internet shopping. We can't compete I guess. I would have like to try though. It's okay, I'll always respect the owners and what Benny's meant to so many," Fiore added.
Fiore may get sent to the other larger Benny's to help with the Christmas rush and then he'll be on his own. Looking for work. As the customers looked for last minute bargains, they all made a point to stop by and say goodbye to the employees. Especially to Peter. There were more than a few tears shed on this day of bargains and goodbyes.