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Russo's of Watertown to shut this fall

Russo's announced today:

After more than 70 years working for the family business, Tony Russo is retiring. ⁣

Our business will close this fall.⁣ ...

Our business began as a small farm in Watertown more than 100 years ago. Every day at Russo's - while surrounded by fresh produce - Tony is reminded of working alongside his grandparents on the farm and later, of working alongside his father and uncle at their wholesale warehouse. Their work ethic became his inspiration. Throughout the years, Tony has worked in all areas of the retail and wholesale business including trimming vegetables, driving trucks, loading and unloading trailers, putting up wholesale orders, sweeping the floor, buying produce and overseeing the most subtle details of the retail store. At any time, customers can find him involved in the displays of the fruits, vegetables, flowers, bakery, deli, cheese and garden departments. His days begin around 3:30 AM and end after 8 PM.⁣

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Comments

Nothing short of tragic. Russo’s will be sorely missed. So many things you can’t buy anywhere else.

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Voting closed 83

I’m am so saddened by this news

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Voting closed 14

This is a major loss for the area.

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Voting closed 61

I know it's there business but why close a business needed and loved by many? Is selling not an option?

Seems like hundreds of loyal employees will be without a job soon.

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Voting closed 43

I would love it if they could figure out a way to turn it into an employee-owned co-op.

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Voting closed 28

Sell the land, put up condos.

Real estate is the only thing our culture values anymore.

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Voting closed 16

I don’t blame anyone for taping out.

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Voting closed 20

We live walking distance from Russos and ALL of our vegetables and nearly all of our coldcuts come from there. All of our rotisserie chickens. All of the chicken salad. A buncha birthday cakes. Dammit.

And all of our Thanksgiving Turkeys since like 2005.

***

As pure speculation on my part, I believe the land value for the retail operation (Pleasant Street Corridor, Watertown) is higher than the sale of the business could net. I'd be shocked if we didn't get another mixed-use venue, or combined with the property behind, another giant condo and apartment complex (see directly across the street, the Mews and Repton Place).

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Voting closed 46

Didn’t the manufacturing plant behind Russo’s get sold to a Life Sciences developer in the last year or so? That would be one massive facility!

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Voting closed 15

That's probably it. $9 million in value and probably a lot more on the open market. Plus if you are running a wholesale business running it out of the middle of Watertown is probably not an optimal location. But Russo's cheese and meat and vegetables are incomparable. And cheap! If someone opened a Russo's clone in, say, the Arsenal area would be a great spot for them.

Still, this is tragic. I could share some of my favorite Russo's memories but if I do I will probably hit the character limit. The employee singing during the holidays might be the best. But also:

* Great shishito peppers (worth it even if we always set off the smoke alarm)
* The time limes were 15/$1. "Seriously?" I asked. "We screwed up and overbought, you win."
* The time I wanted cranberries and it was the end of the season. They didn't have any on display, but someone offered to get me some from the back. "They're not in great shape, so I'll sell you them for 49¢ each." For a two pound bag. I bought 12 pounds for $2.95.

Oh and their entire Twitter feed.

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Voting closed 33

Russo's was also a supplier, delivering produce to many small grocery stores around Boston (and possibly to restaurants, too), meaning that those businesses (and their customers, in turn) will also find it harder to get good produce.

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Voting closed 34

Russo's was also a supplier, delivering produce to many small grocery stores around Boston (and possibly to restaurants, too), meaning that those businesses (and their customers, in turn) will also find it harder to get good produce.

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Voting closed 8

I saw Russos trucks at many restaurant loading docks. This is a huge loss to so many people in the area.

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Voting closed 19

This is shocking news. I drive out there every Saturday, have even walked out there back when I lived in the Fenway. What's going to happen to all those people who worked there for years?

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Voting closed 22

I've never heard of this place and had no idea that it existed. None.

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Voting closed 17

You are forgiven not being a Watertownian. Watertonian? Waterernian?

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Voting closed 14

Aquavillian

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Voting closed 16

Watertownie?

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Voting closed 17

OooooOoooOooooooooooooooooo!

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Voting closed 24

I go to Russos every two weeks to refill my fridge.

Where do I go now?

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Voting closed 27

That was my exact reaction. I am positively crushed.

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Voting closed 19

Every once in awhile, we'd make trips from the boonies of Hopkinton. Such a cool place. Pretty shocking.

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Voting closed 17

She has been going there every week for 30 years

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Voting closed 14

I cannot imagine life without Russo's. They are without compare in the Boston area. It's long past time that local government should step in to make the economic pressure less stark in order to save precious, amazing businesses like Russo's. I have to hold a small sliver of hope that a prospective new owner will emerge, or maybe that the business could relocate somewhere nearby where the commercial real estate would be more feasible.

Where else can you grab a giant bundle of fresh basil for $1.49? Russo's has just about everything a foodie could want---unbelievable selection of produce (including all kinds of Asian vegetables and herbs that are difficult to find anywhere else), quality imported items like olive oils, vinegars, even the the dried pasta selection, amazing dairy, pickles, and antipasti, one of the best cheese departments I've seen, charcuterie, fresh pasta by the pound, a stellar bakery where you could also find great pita and lavash from local bakeries---and that's not even mentioning the nursery and Christmas foliage. And always with the lovely classical music.

Russo's is the kind of market that felt like an oasis of civility (even when it was busy) in an increasingly joyless world. I'm devastated and sad---and honestly a little angry that the community that Russo's serves might not have any opportunity to help keep it alive.

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Voting closed 35

It's long past time that local government should step in to make the economic pressure less stark in order to save precious, amazing businesses like Russo's.

We don't know for sure, but this doesn't appear to be a hardship case, i.e, economic pressure due to high rent, competition, etc. This seems to be a personal decision where local government has no bearing on Russo's decision to close.

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Voting closed 12

In this case the economic pressure relates to the value of the property and the business; you can imagine how hard it would be for a prospective new owner(s) to come up with enough resources to purchase at fair market value, whereas a large developer probably has a much easier path to coming up with that money. The place for local government would be to provide funding (in some form or forms) for a prospective new owner to be able to compete with a developer, to make it roughly as financially viable to preserve the business as it would be to just sell the land to a developer.

After that point, yes, I suppose it does come down to a personal decision about whether to find new stewards for the business or to shutter. With admiration, appreciation, and respect for the Russos, there is a compelling public interest for the business to remain open---under new ownership if the family aren't interested in continuing on. Historically we have deferred much more to personal prerogatives over public interest, and what I wanted to suggest is that maybe we shouldn't be satisfied with such a heavily laissez-faire status quo.

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Voting closed 9

Russo cashed out. There was no economic pressure, he just decided to take the cash.
There is no place for govt action at all.

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Voting closed 14

Do you think Tony would take a few more thousands from someone to turn over his suppliers, buyers, employee records, and whatever used equipment is worth keeping?

I feel the right person looking to take over a dedicated following could easily reproduce Russo's in a new location with a modern layout and maintain nearly everything from the quality to the variety and even the price. They could let go of something like the nursery traffic to Mahoney's if it's too hard to maintain everything the same.

But the produce, prepared foods, bakery, and staff could easily move to a new location without interrupting supply chains, etc. All it would take is Tony being willing to turn it all over to someone new.

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Voting closed 23

Yes, exactly. And one would hope that that prospective owner would understand the draw of the pleasant shopping experience, too---something decidedly hard to find at any supermarket these days.

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Voting closed 13

Russo's is a must for any serious foodie in Boston. There's really no alternative, and so this is a big loss. Really hope someone comes in and buys the place.

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Voting closed 23

Here's hoping for that, too. Marty's in Newtonville has a decent selection of quality foods, including imported items, but nothing like the breadth of Russo's.

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Voting closed 10

Russo's is the reason why most people come to watertown. Its the reason for living in the nearby housing developments. More and more soul being sucked out of the city. No more banging carts with entitled newton-ites! I'll have to drive to Whole (paycheck) foods to get looked down upon!

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Voting closed 7

I loved Russo's, though it was a little annoying that there was nothing like it in my neighborhood so I had to drive out to Watertown. This is the kind of greengrocer you'd find every few blocks in a certain other large city to our southwest.

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Voting closed 11