Michael Borenstein/The Middlebury Campus
Tony Neri, local businessman and owner of several retail locations throughout Middlebury, is tackling a new project: reopening the much-beloved Greg’s Meat Market on Elm Street. Greg Wry, the long-time owner of the Market, sold it to Bart Livin in 2010, who ran it for six years before filing for bankruptcy in 2016. The building has since been empty until Neri sensed an opportunity to rebuild.
“Originally, he [Neri] bought it with the intention to lease it to another store or a small grocery chain,” explained the future manager of the soon-to-open Greg’s, Gail Daha. However, given the lack of interest in the space, Neri decided to tackle the project himself, even buying the neighboring Pool World and extensively renovating the space.
Daha and Neri have plans to build on the “corner grocery store” model that worked wonders for Wry. “Greg’s service was personal, and that’s what we’re emphasizing,” Daha said, but there will be some new additions when Greg’s reopens in mid-May. Daha has plans for a hot bar, salad bar and homemade prepared foods for customers on the go.
The new and improved Greg’s Meat Market, which will open at its old location on May 15, will remain remarkably similar to the way it was under Wry’s direction, with the inclusion of a large deli, an emphasis on customer service and the butcher shop that fans of Greg’s will remember well.
Daha also plans to invite former employees of the original Greg’s to return, hoping to retain the similar community spirit the store had in its first iteration. These employees include, as it turns out, Greg Wry himself, who is helping out at the store especially in the preliminary stages of redevelopment. “Greg Wry will be in the store, showing me how to do my job,” said Daha.
The community response to Neri’s project has been overwhelmingly positive. Several threads on Front Porch Forum are dedicated to lamenting the closing of the store back in 2016, and more recent posts impatiently seek information about the opening date. Greg’s had a loyal customer base, and it seems many of these customers will be returning to give Neri’s version of a neighborhood market a chance.
“We’re being thorough with this,” Daha explained of the lengthy wait for the store’s opening. “We’re trying to do this right rather than rush it.”
For most, that project alone would be enough. Before beginning his reopening, Neri had to go through an extensive process of applying to the town’s Development Review Board (DRB), convincing them of the potential of his business plan and undergoing revisions of his traffic flow plan for the Pool World building area. David Wetmore, clerk of the DRB, explained that on May 13, just two days before the opening of Greg’s, the group will meet to look over Neri’s proposal for his property at 55 Middle Road.
Neri’s plans for the building center around dividing it into retail spaces for stores or restaurants. Ideally, the DRB will allow Neri to build the space to its former 10,000 square feet.
Neri is taking on a lot, but Daha feels confident about the Greg’s project. “We’ve stuck to the roots,” she said. “We want to stay consistent with what people expect.” When Greg’s opens in May, Daha and Neri will likely be rewarded for their hard work.