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Colella’s Supermarket: A Look Back in Time

By Michelle Murdock, Freelance Writer

In June of 1945, Daniel E. Colella realized his life long dream; opening a supermarket. After being wounded in World War II and being sent home early, Colella used the money he had been saving to open his first supermarket located at 34 Main Street in Hopkinton in the building that now houses Action Copy.

At that time, Colella’s Supermarket was one of several grocery stores serving the town of Hopkinton. The A&P and First National chains both had store locations on Main Street. Another grocery store was located at the intersection of Maple Street and Hayden Rowe, Wood’s was located where Hopkinton Drug sits today and another store, Food Freeze, selling frozen meats, was located at the intersection of Pleasant and Main Streets.

So how did Colella’s Supermarket not only survive, but thrive? Currently run by three of Colella’s daughters, Dale Danahy, Sandy Varnum and Diane McGrath, the supermarket is the only independent grocery story in the area known to Danahy to have survived for a total of 65 years. According to Danahy, the key to their success is customer service.

Back in 1945, Colella’s was one of the first and only supermarkets to offer credit to its customers. That, coupled with home delivery, contributed to Colella’s success.

“We still have some of the old credit slips that my father never collected,” said Danahy as she talked about the store’s history.

In October of 1955, ten years after opening in its first location, Daniel Colella purchased land from the town and opened a larger store at Colella’s current location.

“That was a busy week,” said Danahy. “On October 5, my parents celebrated their anniversary, on October 6, they opened the new supermarket and on October 8, my sister Diane and I were born.”

The supermarket continued to prosper throughout the late 1950’s, and in 1964 the first addition was completed when a bank, the Framingham Trust Company, was completed.

“The first employee hired was my mother Charlotte,” said Danahy. “She and my father worked side-by-side for 40 years and managed to get along the whole time.”

By 1979, the Colellas had tripled the size of the business, adding another big addition on the back of the store. When asked if the products carried had changed over time, Danahy replied that as people’s tastes changed over the years, the inventory changed.

“Dad grew a lot of the produce sold during the 1960’s,” said Danahy. “The Colellas owned 100 acres of farmland where Charlesview is located today and my father had a garden for fresh produce.”

Earlier in the 1950’s, they had put in an orchard, growing peaches, plums and pears. These were also sold in the supermarket. One constant, however, was the fresh hanging beef. The original store, opened in 1945, had a meat cutter. Today, Colella’s continues that tradition with its on-site butcher shop.

“We take the whole steer and break it down,” said Danahy. “Our hamburger will never be recalled, we grind it fresh every few hours.”

In 1985, Daniel Colella officially retired, but stayed on as a consultant for another 10 years. Danahy says he always complained that no one took his advice.

“It was really hard for him to walk away,” said Danahy.

Daniel Colella passed in 1998 at the age of 81, but his legacy lives on. In 1991, the business was expanded again; the loading dock and backroom storage were added, and on October 1, 2010, Colella’s Supermarket will celebrate its Grand Re-Opening, after a major renovation and expansion.

“We have been planning this for years,” said Danahy. “We’ve been saving.”

As part of the expansion project, the grocery store has expanded hot meals, both on the premises and to go. Grocery, Colella’s staple department, has also expanded to offer more choices, and the frozen food section, with entirely new freezer equipment and an expanded footprint, has doubled its offerings. Danahy says prices on staples such as milk, eggs, cereal and coffee have all been reduced to be more competitive.

Red Barn Coffee, another independent, is now on-site, and its wide variety of coffee and tea is served in the newly opened coffee shop.

“Because we are an independent grocer, the collaboration with Red Barn is a great partnership,” said Danahy. “We try to help the other independents.”

A formal ceremony, complete with ribbon cutting, is planned for Friday, October 1st at 10 a.m. Almost 200 invitations have been sent out and a large crowd is expected. Danahy says she is thankful for the town’s support and loyalty.

“We want people to make this new store their destination, not just a convenience store,” said Danahy, as her interview came to a close.