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TOUR: LaBonne's Market - Watertown, CT

LaBonne's Market
Owner: Bob LaBonne
Opened: unknown
Cooperative: IGA
 639 Straits Tpk, Watertown, CT
Photographed: July 9, 2021
We've seen some excellent independents around Connecticut so far, and today's tour is no exception. The four-store LaBonne's Market chain runs higher-end but complete supermarkets with lots of specialty items but not crazy high prices. Like so many other stores in this area, they are IGA-affiliated and supplied by Bozzuto's -- whose home base is in Cheshire, just about ten miles from this store.
We enter the 30,000 square foot store on the left side to produce in the left part of the grand aisle. It opens up to prepared foods up next, with a sushi island in the middle of the grand aisle and the rest at the back. The salad bar we see here was closed not permanently, but due to the coronavirus when I visited. The deli is at the back of the grand aisle with meat and seafood taking up the rest of the back wall. Dairy and frozen are at the far right side of the store, with registers on the front end. I just can't remember for the life of me where the bakery is -- I believe it's on the back wall to the left of the deli, but I'm not positive about that. I do remember that there is a bakery department here though!
One of the best things about this store, aside from the fact that it's yet another extremely well-run independent, is that the store also serves as a timeline of the chain's history. You can read what they say about their own history on their website, but historical photos line the walls along with years going back to the company's start in the early 1900s.
Here we see the large deli department in the back left corner under some 1930s pictures. I love that feature! That's one of the ways you can tell this is a small operation and not a big chain store.
Prepared foods are to the right of the deli with a large service meat and seafood area to the right of that. In the first aisle we have single-serve beverages (they must do a lot of business on takeout food here) and greeting cards...
The rest of the grocery aisles are actually carpeted! There aren't too many stores with carpeted grocery aisles anymore, and it was pretty much a bad idea from the start, but here they keep them very clean. A few of the Glass Gardens-owned ShopRites had carpeted flooring and it was always just a little bit disgusting, if fun.
Here's a look at the large butcher and seafood counters on the back wall. The timeline continues, with a look at the 1940s here!
As with the other IGA-affiliated stores in this area, this store uses the IGA storebrand along with Life Goods and Life Everyday.
Frozen foods are at the right side of the store, taking up all of aisle 9 and half of aisle 10. The outside wall of aisle 10 is dairy.
I don't actually know when this particular location opened, but the building was constructed around 1970 and was open by 1972. The rest of the strip mall wasn't built until around 10 years later. I have no evidence of this other than a hunch, but I wouldn't be surprised if this were the original Watertown Stop & Shop. A late 1990s-built store opened just about 300 yards south and is still operating, and it's plausible that that store replaced an older store here. Is it possible that the larger store at the left side of the mall was originally a Stop & Shop-owned Bradlees department store?
Here's a look at 1960 for LaBonne's: well, we definitely know they weren't here then! I'm not positive where this store was located, but I love the sign.
Here's a look at the front wall beyond the registers. The front-end only takes up about half of the store's width. 
And speaking of the front end, here it is, complete with a dedicated nuts department and a US Post Office at the far end of the store.
After visiting this one, I definitely want to check out the other three LaBonne's Markets! This one was fun for its historical value but also because it's clearly a well-run independent store, something that's increasingly hard to find, especially in the suburbs. (Cooperatives like Key Food, ASG, and Krasdale make sure that many of the cities in the New York metro area have at least an independent store or two.) And what's that? You'd like to see what those New York groups are doing here in Connecticut? You're in luck! Our next few days will be taking a look at some of the familiar NYC-based names in Waterbury, starting with a store just about two and a half miles east of this one on The Market Report tomorrow!