Benny’s announces plans to shutter all 31 stores by the end of 2017

Benny’s announces plans to shutter all 31 stores by the end of 2017

The Westerly Sun

WESTERLY — Benny’s, the family-owned retail chain based in Rhode Island, announced Friday that it was closing the doors for good at all 31 stores by the end of 2017.

Benny’s operates stores in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut and employs 715 workers, 385 of whom are full-time. The news of its closing was released via email to media outlets Friday afternoon.

Founded in 1924, the chain sells a wide variety of merchandise, from bikes and toys to housewares and tires. Over the past two decades, Benny’s has resisted the onslaught of big-box and internet competition in the marketplace, perhaps nowhere more visibly than in Westerly, where the Benny’s store sits essentially in Walmart’s front parking lot.

Benny’s President Arnold Bromberg, part of the third generation of his family to run the stores, cited “the changing face of retailing,” and also said the decision was based on the desire of some family members to spend more time with their families.

“We take great pride in what our retail stores have meant to our employees and many loyal customers for so long,” Bromberg said. “But it is simply time.”

Besides Westerly, Benny’s operates stores in Wakefield, Groton, Norwich, and Old Saybrook. The company closed its Waterford store at the end of February.

Outside the Westerly store at about 5 p.m. Friday, Valerie Cosenza, of Westerly, was in the parking lot, taking a picture of the store sign from her truck. She said she found out about the store closing from a friend’s text and rushed over to the store.

“I literally just drove down here to take a picture of the sign,” she said. “This is terrible, this is the end.”

The store had great service and unique, fun stuff that you couldn’t find anywhere else, she said.

“It’s just a fun store and it’s got great customer service, they always help you,” Cosenza said. “I find they have really good, quality stuff.”

She said her son, Anthony Cosenza, now a senior at Providence College, worked at Benny’s for two summers.

“He was 16 or 17 and he wore his tie and was all dressed up and he learned about retail with a great bunch of people,” she said. “And now he’s majoring in marketing, but one of his very first jobs was working at Benny’s in the summer, learning all about retail and customer service.”

Cosenza said she grew up in Westerly and remembered the store from when she was a kid.

“It was always a fun trip here,” she said, adding that her friends loved the store, too.

“I mean, who doesn’t love it here?” she said. “I think sometime this week I’m going to stop in and say hi to some of the people I know.”

Later in the parking lot, Stephen Turrisi and Jake Roberts, both of Westerly, who had just bought oil for their boat, said they hadn’t heard the store was closing.

“We’re right down the road and it’s convenient and it’s good service,” said Turrisi. “What’s going to replace it? Does anyone know?”

They both said they preferred Benny’s to Walmart, located next door.

“I’d rather come here than go to Walmart. It’s the only convenient thing,” said Turrisi.

“We wouldn’t go in there just to buy three things,” said Roberts. “If this place is closing, I guess we’ll have to go to Walmart.”

The two also said the selection and quality at Benny’s was better than Walmart’s.

“Walmart can’t compete with this stuff, they don’t have the same quality, and they don’t have the same stuff, like fishing poles and oils and stuff,” said Roberts.

Pat O’Donnell, of Westerly, said he’s been coming to Benny’s to buy board games for years.

“They have a really good games selection — I’m a board-game fan,” he said. “I’ve been coming since I was a kid and I’m 31 now.”

He had heard the store was closing and wanted to pick up a T-shirt, but the store was sold out. “I came in to get a Benny’s T-shirt because I saw on Facebook that they were closing, but I guess they don’t have them anymore,” he said.

He said he would go to Walmart in the future, but it wouldn’t be the same as shopping at Benny’s.

“Walmart might have similar things but it’s just a totally different shopping experience,” he said. “I’m bummed out and I wish I’d got a T-shirt. It’s very nostalgic.”


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