RICHMOND — The Richmond Farms Fresh Market will open soon in Richmond in the former Wildwood Liquors building at 5 Kingstown Road (Route 138) — an endeavor that has not been without at least one hiccup.
Owner Chris Menta, a Boston produce wholesaler, had intended to use the name of the defunct Benny’s retail chain and thought he had obtained the necessary authorization from the state. Then he received a cease-and-desist notice from a Benny’s attorney, ordering him to stop using the Benny’s name.
“We legally obtained the trademark. I’m literally sitting in front of the copies at my attorney’s office. You can go on the State of Rhode Island" website, he said, "and it’ll clearly show it.”
The issue, Menta said, was a federal trademark on the Benny’s name that he and his attorney were not aware of.
“They had a federal trademark even though they weren’t enforcing it,” he said. “Obviously, they wanted to enforce it. They could have been a little bit more gentlemanly about it and said, ‘Hey listen, we’ve got a federal trademark and would you take it down.’ We’re going to take it down anyways.”
Menta said that rather than get into a legal battle, he decided to simply change the name of his store from Benny’s Fresh Market to Richmond Farms Fresh Market and move on.
“We’re not going to battle with them. I’m not going to spend money that I could donate to a charity. It’s foolish and the way that they spun it — for me it’s not fair, because we were trying to do the right thing. We held them on a pedestal the whole time, we said that they were iconic. I really wish it could have been done differently,” he said.
The Benny’s sign may be gone, but preparations continue in the 4,000-square foot space that Menta said his company has leased for “a very, very, very long time.” The market is scheduled to open in the next four to five weeks.
The reason Menta chose Richmond for his first retail food venture is a sentimental one. The Wildwood Liquors building previously housed a florist where he and his wife bought the flowers for their wedding.
“That was a flower shop and we were the last wedding that the flower shop did, and the guy was a sweetheart that owned it,” he said. “He owns the property to this day. And I came back after I got married and I said ‘I want to buy the property because you’re going out of business.’ And he said ‘yeah, Stop and Shop put me out of business.’”
Menta got involved with building his Boston business and forgot about the flower shop building until he was driving by one day and saw a sign in the window.
“Twenty years later, I saw an ‘available’ sign on the building and I said ‘I’ve got to get it. I don’t care — it’s a little bit smaller than a normal footprint of what we would want but I want that store,'" he said.
The prospect of a new food market has generated a lot of excitement in Richmond, where the only food store is a supermarket.
“Everyone I’ve spoken to is really excited about Richmond Farms coming to Richmond,” Town Administrator Karen Pinch said. "Mostly, people are happy to have options, but it also seems to be in a very convenient location, and the owner has said that his prices will be extremely competitive. We love to see new businesses come to Richmond. I wish them much success.”
Town Council Vice President Richard Nassaney said he was looking forward to a new market opening.
“When I heard that, I was like, ‘That’s going to be fantastic.’ It’ll be a great addition.”
Menta said he would offer the freshest fruits and vegetables at lower prices, because as a produce wholesaler he doesn’t need a middleman.
“Because we cut out the middleman and we’re direct distributors of the product, even a store as big as Stop and Shop cannot come close to competing with us,” he said. “My partner owns a USDA meatpacking company in Boston. We deal directly with the stockyards in the Midwest. We source organic beef.”
Richmond Farms will be open Wednesday through Saturday and a half day on Sunday. Menta, who arrives at the Boston wholesale produce market every day at 1 a.m, will decide what his Richmond market will be selling based on what looks fresh.
“One day we might have asparagus, the next day we may not,” Menta said. “I’m in the Boston market every morning doing my shopping. Whatever’s going to be the freshest, whatever’s going to be the best price is what’s going to be offered to the customers. We’re going to have our staples like eggs and butter and things of that nature, but for the most part, it’s going to be a unique shopping experience.”
Menta said he was forging ahead with his new market and eager to put the trademark snafu behind him.
“I’m not going to spend valuable time trying to find out if I’m right and they’re wrong, and at the end of the day, I’m going to be the gentleman, I’m going to take the sign down and we’re going to move forward,” he said.