RICHMOND — Business has been so good since Chris Menta opened the Richmond Farms Fresh Marketplace less than a year ago that he is already planning an expansion.
“Since day one, we’ve had an enormous, overwhelming response, to the point where we’d opened up the weekend when Stop and Shop was on strike — it was Easter weekend — and we literally had a line outside the door,” he said.
A Boston-based produce broker and entrepreneur, Menta signed a long term lease on the building at 5 Kingstown Road for a decidedly unbusinesslike reason: It had once housed the shop where he and his wife had bought the flowers for their wedding. He also wanted to offer an alternative to the nearby Stop & Shop, which had dominated the retail food landscape in the town.
Recently, Menta demolished an old house on the adjacent property. He hopes to be able to come to an agreement on a long term lease on the second property, too.
“We agreed to take down the house, clean up the property and come up with some ideas to expand,” he said.
Menta is exploring the possibilities for the land next door, but because there are drainage issues on the parcel, he is also looking at how he can best use his existing property. Either way, his business will be growing.
“I have some room on my property,” he said. “I have a second-floor loft and I can also go out to the right side of my building. So if all else fails, if I can’t use that property next to me, I still have room for expansion on my property.”
Menta is also waiting for construction to be completed on the reconfiguration of Exit 3 off Interstate 95.
“I’m not going to start building, and then they tell me a year down the road ‘hey, we’re re-routing the drainage. You’re not going to be able to access the first 50 feet of your property for the next year,’” he said.
The expansion, whether it occurs on the main property or the adjacent land, will result in a much larger market and some new culinary attractions.
“My store, where we currently are, is going to become a clam shack under our ownership and our direction,” he said. “I have a little bit of a history with clam shacks. I’ve opened up several in Rhode Island. Where the house was will become [an] ice cream [shop] and to the very far side of the property, right at the light in front of Stop & Shop, will be a store four times the size of the one we’re currently in now.”
The larger store will offer amenities usually found only in supermarkets.
“We’re going to offer a full-service deli, full-service seafood and full-service bakery,” Menta said.
Town Council President Richard Nassaney said Menta’s business was the sort of investment that was always welcome in the town.
“Somebody who’s invested their time, energy and gratefulness for the community that we have,” he said.
Menta said the support from town officials and residents has been an important factor in prompting his additional investment.
“From the people at Town Hall to the fire department, everybody that I came in contact with basically rolled out a red carpet for us,” he said. “They couldn’t do enough for us to be there, and still every day, people come in and thank us for being there and for giving them an alternative … We have people that come from Block Island to go shopping.”
Nassaney said he hoped the expansion would transform the Route 138 property into a destination.
“Hopefully, the plans will come to fruition, because it would be wonderful,” he said. “It would be a nice destination for travelers and for local people here."