Pete’s to hire locally, end ‘food desert’
April 5, 2012
A new Pete’s Fresh Market is coming to West Haven.

When Pete’s Fresh Market opens at the southeast corner of Madison and Western Avenues in West Haven later this year, the community’s days as a “food desert” finally will come to an end. The market will offer residents fresh fruits and vegetables, an extensive array of grocery staple items, and even a butcher providing fresh meat and poultry.

The West Haven community has needed a grocery store or supermarket for several years. As fast food restaurants and convenience stores grew to dominate the area’s food choices, residents, store owners, and City officials debated the best choice for a local grocery store. In addition, residents and 2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti pushed to have construction laborers and future grocery employees come primarily from West Haven.

“There is the possibility of 200 jobs that will be available with the opening of Pete’s,” Fioretti noted. Officials also considered Jewel and Food-4-Less, but Pete’s commitment to hire locals for construction and as employees made it “the best choice for a grocery store in West Haven,” he added. “I thought that Pete’s would do a very good job of closing that food desert there.”

A “food desert” is a neighborhood that has limited access to healthful food, an abundance of fast food restaurants, and no or distant grocery stores.

Charles Poulos, a member of Pete’s Market’s senior management for 23 years, said, “the plan is to hire people from the area. You can go to the website and get the information about where to go and apply, and then we’re going to try to see if we can set up a trailer at the site” for hiring. “There will also be application forms at Alderman Fioretti’s office, and we want to give priority to the people who live in the area. We usually need about 150 people.

“Whenever we open a new store, we send in people from the other stores who already know the system,” Poulos continued. “We’re going to train the new employees about two weeks before the opening, and they start out at other stores. Sometimes it requires experience, but there are other jobs that, if you’re not experienced, we can train for.”

The West Haven store “will be most beautiful Pete’s that’s ever been built,” he added. “It will be a completely different design and construction. It should take about ninemonths to build.”

Mari Gallagher, a Chicago re-searcher, consultant, and expert on the impact of food deserts, commented that “Pete’s is a very good grocery store, and it is certainly an important step for the people in this food desert to have access to healthy food. [It] will make it easier for them to make healthy food choices. If we can’t find healthy food, we can’t make that choice, and I think that having a good food provider come in will be a great benefit to families in the community.”

Once Pete’s opens, Gallagher believes the area will need outreach or education to help spread public awareness of how good food affects “the quality and length of life…in the long run.”

Added Fioretti, “It’s important that we close one of the major food deserts by the opening of Pete’s Fresh Market. We will also create jobs and economic opportunity for the citizens in and around the area. I’m a firm believer that it is easier to walk to work, and so be it. I believe that everyone should be hired locally.”

For more information, log on to www.petesfresh.com or call Fioretti’s office at (312) 263-9273.

— Amy Rothblatt