Benny’s to close EP store on Wednesday

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The beginning of the end is beginning for Benny’s.

The iconic Rhode Island retailer, which announced earlier this month it will shut down all its stores by the end of the year, will close its location on Pawtucket Avenue in East Providence on Wednesday, spokesman Dante Bellini confirmed.

While the East Providence Benny’s will be the first to close since the announcement, it is not the first to close this year. A store in Waterford, Connecticut, closed in February when its lease ended, Bellini said.

Separately, Bellini said that due to “the overwhelming response” Benny’s has received to its closing sale, the company is modifying its hours “to allow our staff the time to put the goods on the shelves.” Starting Wednesday, store hours will be 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.

“We apologize for any inconvenience to our customers and thank them for their support, and we thank our employees for their continued efforts and loyalty,” he said.

Customers outside the Benny’s on Pawtucket Avenue were shocked Tuesday night.

“This is my Benny’s!” said Debra Peterson. “Now I have to go to another Bennys until they close. I’m not happy.”

Hilda Connors is 90 years old and a member of the Benny’s faithful. “What are we going to do now without Benny’s?” she asked.

Connors said she’s said to see mom-and-pop shops closing up, and she isn’t alone.

“We need more of those stores where you go there, and people actually know you,” argued another customer, Michael Conlon.

In an interview on WPRI 12’s Newsmakers earlier this month, Benny’s co-owner Arnold Bromberg said the timing of each store’s closing would depend on a number of factors.

“We are restocking the shelves – we have a warehouse distribution center in Smithfield with a lot of merchandise in it,” Bromberg said. “We are not bringing much more in now at all. We plan on shipping it out to the stores as quickly as we can and selling it as quickly as we can.”

Bromberg has said his family is in talks with potential buyers interested in taking over the real estate that currently houses the 31 Benny’s stores, but has declined to identify who is interested. However, he has said he expects the locations will continue to house retail operations.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.