By Rod Lee
Most people taking in the sight of the Yatco Food Mart coming together at the intersection of Main, No. Main and Arcade streets in the Whitinsville neighborhood of the town of Northbridge would probably agree that the pace of the construction work occurring there has been nothing short of remarkable.
Some motorists even turned in the morning of September 4th, thinking that the Gulf pumping stations or the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through were open for business. Nothing would have convinced them otherwise. Signage was up. Pavement was down. Lights were on. Shelves were being stocked. Landscaping was finished. A number of vehicles were parked outside the building.
Tarek Yatim, whose family owns the store (and nineteen more throughout the area including a new one on Park Avenue in Worcester, where the Sakura Toyko restaurant formerly stood, and on Southbridge St. in the city), knows different.
“It’s a headache project, the hardest we’ve ever done,” Mr. Yatim said after fielding a steady series of calls on his cell phone, while simultaneously checking the progress of the finishing touches being applied to the 2500-square-foot structure.
The result of more than a year’s effort, however, is spectacular; and a noticeable upgrade of a parcel of land at the edge of Arcade Pond that Harry Berkowitz of the Northbridge Planning Board said was “all fly ash” and that had become an eyesore. A lot of “remediation” had to be undertaken to get the acreage—vacant since Main Street Motors relocated—ready for redevelopment, Mr. Berkowitz said.
Mr. Berkowitz has known Mr. Yatim since selling tobacco products to area markets (he is now employed by WCRN Radio) and said the Yatim family “didn’t get here by accident. They work hard.” Mr. Yatim’s brother Hassan Yatim is owner of the Massachusetts Pirates, an indoor/arena football team that plays its home games at the DCU Center in Worcester.
Since reopening a closed Exxon station in Worcester in 1993, brothers Tarek, Hassan and Khalil have grown their business, expanding into Connecticut and Rhode Island in close collaboration with Gulf. “Gulf is my family,” is the way Tarek Yatim puts it, in explaining the family’s introduction of “Yatco Energy” to its portfolio several years ago.
The new Yatco Food Mart will not only be a positive on the northwest side of town, Mr. Berkowitz said, it will “take the pressure off” the Dunkin’ Donuts store on Providence Road, just south of Plummer’s Corner. A spacious, easy-to-negotiate lane to get to the drive-through window at the Yatco Food Mart will be attractive to motorists heading to or from Route 146; or to Walmart, about a mile away.
Tom Denesowicz, who owns the Dunkin’ Donuts on Providence Road in Whitinsville and a Dunkin’ Donuts on Lackey Dam Road in Douglas, concurs with this thinking. Asked if he felt the Yatco Food Mart would in any way hurt his busy existing Dunkin’ Donuts store in Whitinsville, Mr. Denesowicz said “not at all.” Besides, he noted, the revenue from his stores “goes to the same” bottom line.
With the Dunkin’ Donuts part of the operation having gotten a signoff from the town to start business, Mr. Denesowicz and several of his colleagues were feverishly unpacking boxes in preparation for the Yatco Food Mart’s opening later in the week. Other last-minute inspections and approvals were pending.
“This is a decent guy,” Mr. Denesowicz said of Mr. Yatim. “The minute I met him, I liked him.”
Mr. Berkowitz said Core-Mark (directly across the street), which markets a fresh and broad-line of supply solutions to the convenience retail industry, is going to allow employees of the Yatco Food Mart to “park in its lot;” also, he said, “the town will be installing a crosswalk on Main St.,” facilitating passage between the two properties.
Change comes slowly to Northbridge but in recent years there has been creation of Osterman Commerce Park on Commerce Drive (home of Milford Regional satellite medical facilities), a new Walmart Supercenter on Valley Parkway, a just-remodeled Cumberland Farms store on Providence Road in Rockdale and now the Yatco Food Mart.
Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.