As Evergood Market closes after 67 years, memories in good supply, answers are not
The Evergood Super Market sits silent at Massachusetts Avenue and Hudson Street, its lights off, a pile of folded Cambridge Chronicle newspapers at the door. Cans line the shelves behind unused registers, but otherwise, most shelves are empty. James Hallowell, who has shopped there for decades, still grabs the door handle, gives it a few strong pulls, then a couple firm pushes, and relents. He’s not getting in.
“I think it’s dead,” he says, chuckling and a bit confused.
The Evergood Super Market closed permanently weeks earlier without any notice, not even a note on the door. All that greets customers is a simple, standard “Closed” sign.
What surprises customers more isn’t so much the closing, but its suddenness. Evergood has been around 1949, a true neighborhood staple and a “quintessential mom and pop store,” as Hallowell says.
“It’s a real blow to the neighborhood,” says Hallowell, who’s lived in the area for 40 years. “All the customers knew the staff, and the staff knew their customers.”
But even he has to admit the store was “dying slowly” for a while now.
A quick rundown of Yelp reviews from recent months shows customers complaining about erratic hours and poorly stocked shelves. Red five-star ratings turn to orange two-, three- and even one-star reviews toward the middle of July. Some Yelpers even guessed the store was closing. On July 13, the word went out among neighbors that the doors were locked, seemingly for good.
It was a slow, quiet end for a store that thrived for decades, even as its neighborhood changed.
Evergood wasn’t the only supermarket between Shepard Street and Porter Square in the early days. Its founding family, the Scholnicks, had plenty of competition, including a supermarket right next door.
Maurice Lesses started shopping at the 1674 Massachusetts Ave. grocer in 1955, and remembers Evergood’s vibrant early days: busy six days a week and adapting to changing trends and shopping habits. They trimmed and quartered beef to better fit freezers, and anticipated wholesalers by selling items such as toilet paper by the case.
Lesses’ son, Mark, worked in the store as a teenager, from 1973 to 1974.
“I always remember the smell,” Mark Lesses says. “Sawdust on rainy days. Meat in the cooler.” “It was his first legitimate paying job – back then, you needed a work permit.
Jack Scholnick, the founder, would hock produce in the front of the store, and his son, Ted, would work the back. Mark Lesses, like most of the neighborhood boys employed by Evergood, stocked shelves and delivered groceries. Most of the cashiers were girls from the St. Peter School.
As a teenager, Mark Lesses learned how to clean floors and the right location for each items. He remembers his boss’ mantra: “Everything has a home.” Even that canned corn he put on the wrong shelf.
Now the neighborhood’s changed. There was a toy store, a deli, a small drugstore, local pizza places. They’re gone now. There’s a Gulf and a Starbucks instead.
But it wasn’t exactly some idyllic Main Street from a black-and-white movie. The neighborhood was rough. At the end of the day, Jack Scholnick would carry a club with him to the bank, and ask an employee such as Lesses to accompany him.
Still, it was a nexus of the community. Customer service was the main focus, and the store valued its relationships with the neighborhood. Customers could start tabs and extend credit, and the delivery boys always knew who was feeling sick.
Ted Scholnick eventually took over the store, and he remembers the experience fondly. “Our customers were very nice and very loyal – they’d be in there for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Ted Scholnick says. While he declined to speak about the closing, he adds that he was happy to have worked at the store for so long.
And here’s a fun fact for National Public Radio fans: Peter Sagal, host of “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!,” worked at the store as a teenager. He’s Ted Scholnick’s nephew.
Scholnick sold the store 14 years ago to his manager, William R. Carr. Two years later, Carr died. His wife, Diana Carr, took over. A few weeks ago, she closed the store.
Attempts to reach her were unsuccessful, and property manager Stone Investment Holdings,hasn’t responded either. There isn’t much information on why Carr closed the market, not even rumors, but public records hint at difficulties with the business. The state filed sales tax liens against the corporation responsible for the market in 2010, 2011 and 2012, all for small amounts, after which the corporation stopped filing annual reports and was dissolved. The city’s Inspectional Services Department cited the store for eight violations in February.
None of these troubles were known among customers who commented.
“That’s the weird thing – there’s nothing going around,” says Michelle Rodenmacher, who works at the Rite-Way Dry Cleaners around the corner. She says the family returned to the neighborhood shortly after the closing and one customer tried to stop them to ask why – but the Carrs didn’t say a word. Rodenmacher, like many others, was saddened by the closing. While she never knew the Carrs well, she says they were always friendly.
About four or five years ago, Mark Lesses’s father, Maurice, noticed the shelves were stocked less often.
“They carried so few items I had normally bought there that I had to switch almost entirely to shopping at Star [Market],” Maurice Lesses says. “Then, beginning a few months ago, empty spaces appeared on their shelves and kept growing, until the store closed.”
Despite the decline, the closing still shocked people. One former customer declined an interview, saying she was too angry to speak on record.
The storefront is now available for lease through Urban/Born Associates. Annette Born, principal of the company, says the goal is to place another market in the spot.
“A new grocery store at the Evergood location would be a great convenience for neighborhood residents,” Maurice Lesses says. “However, the owner would not only have to be able to figure out what residents want but also overcome their current shopping habits, which involve leaping into their cars and racing off to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.”
Mark Lesses agrees. “The way people shop today is different,” he says. “It’s about having stuff, not relationships with people.”
Sue Reinert contributed to this report. It was updated Aug. 23, 2016, with information from state and city records.