By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,473)
David and Michael Discatio, brothers and tri-owners, have announced that Joe’s Super Variety, will be closing briefly the end of this month – Sunday, November 29th to be precise. Construction of an 139-unit apartment building is expected to begin in December with completion in the spring of 2016 on that location. This is the first time in the long history of this popular convenience store it has closed. The store was opened by their grandfather, Joseph, on August 10, 1945.
The temporary closure is necessary so that a 139-unit apartment building, Longfellow Apartments, can be constructed on that site. The building with mostly 1- bedroom units, some efficiencies and two-bedroom units, was designed to blend into the neighborhood with its facade and height. Amenities will include a fitness center and a tenant lounge. Each unit will have laundry facilities, air conditioner and dishwasher. There will be parking spaces for about 69 units all underneath the building on two separate levels. One or possibly two rental cars will be owned by the building and located in the garage for the use of tenants. There will also probably be a Zip U-Haul rental vehicle on the street for anyone wanting to use that mode of transportation. In a September planning board workshop, members applauded this innovation, saying they hoped this would be a role model for other developers in the future. Utilities will not be included in the cost of rent.
Planning board member Jack Soley said at the same afternoon workshop on September 29th: “We are looking to developers to provide less parking with more public transportation. We are hoping to change driving habits in Portland. That’s a good thing.” Soley, a member of a prominent Portland development/real estate family, uses a car in a garage on Hampshire Street, next to the soon to open Tomaso’s Canteen and the former Sangillo’s Tavern. Parking spaces are very expensive to build and there is no return on investment Jonathan Culley, Redfern Properties, developer, told the planning board in September of 2015. This appears to be a justification for charging renters for a parking space, in addition to the basic rent, under the building. Many residents of Munjoy Hill are angry at the city’s policy of trying to reduce car use on the peninsula.
During this hiatus, David said he will be working with the building architect to design a new layout for the store and working with vendors to introduce new products. The size will be the same as it is now, but there will be a different shape and that’s part of what needs to be dwsigned. There will be more frontage on Congress Street and the store will not be as deep as it currently is. The magazine section will be eliminated because magazines just don’t sell as well as they did ten years ago. The weeklies will be sold and newspapers, but others will disappear from the display racks and be replaced.
Joe’s Smoke Shop was originally opened on August 10, 1915 by the current tri-owners grandfather – Joseph. He ran the business until 1989 – finding it hard to let go of it said David, a grandson, recently. In 1989, his father, Joe Jr., took over the business and ran it until 2004. That’s when the current three owners took it over. Last year it was renamed Joe’s Super Variety – a switch from its long-time name Joe’s Smoke Shop. A third brother Stephen not shown in the above photo is also an owner of the business.
The Shop is located in an area of heavy foot traffic with popular restaurants in the area and a performance venue across Congress Street. It is also near a statute of Henry W. Longfellow – for whom the building is named. With the upgrades at Joe’s, it will be able to better serve those existing customers as well as the new tenants at Longfellow Apartments.