SOUTHINGTON -Becoming an Uber driver and working hard on his catering business have been some of the battles John Salerno has had to face in the process of reconstructing Tops Marketplace, which is scheduled to break ground in August and be completed by February.
Salerno said the total cost of the building would be $3.8 million with the design he wants for it, but he still needs $500,000 to reach that goal.
The ground-up construction comes after a fire left Tops Market as a total loss in March.
“It was pretty devastating,” Salerno said. “I saw a small fire on the side of the building figuring the fire department would come and put it out and then it grew. When the roof caught, it was just I could not believe my eyes. It took them all night to put it out. Nothing was saved. That lot is just an empty lot now. The whole thing, what was left of it, had to be demolished.”
According to Salerno, who owns the business along with Betsy Tooker, they were driven to rebuild from day one.
“We had a lot of setbacks, the biggest one was that we didn’t have enough money to do it,” Salerno said. “There wasn’t enough insurance money so we’re closing the gap. We are all working hard catering and I’m driving Uber to make a living right now.”
The footprint of the new building is going to be the same, Salerno said. But being that it is a new construction, he wants it to look more upscale.
“It’s going to be a lot nicer looking store inside and out,” Salerno said.
The building is going to be 15,800 square feet. The goal is for Tops Market to continue to be a full-service supermarket offering produce, meat, deli and bakery.
“But our uniqueness was the food that we prepared,” Salerno said. “It was good food. The catering division of Tops Market, Carmela Marie Catering, it was rated in Connecticut’s Best as one of the top 13 caterers in the state. That quality of food is the kind of quality of food we prepared in the store and it was very well received by the community.”
Tops Market offered hot food as well as fresh to-go meals that could be cooked in the microwave or in the oven, Salerno said.
Salerno also said he is thankful for the support he has received after the loss of his business which he purchased in 1979. It was founded by the Topshe Family in 1951.
“The community has been extremely supportive,” Salerno said. “As a matter of fact they started a GoFundMe account, they donated money, we get calls and letters and thoughts and prayers from people. Every time we see people when we are catering or just around and about or hugging us and wishing us well, telling us how much they miss us, that’s a great feeling.”
Karla Santos can be reached at 860-801-5079 or firstname.lastname@example.org.