Village Market is sold: Local landmark’s ownership will remain in local hands

The Village Market’s ownership is changing hands, but it is fair to say the local landmark will “stay in the family.” After more than 20 years at the helm, owner Peter Keating announced Tuesday the sale of the business to two longtime employees.

Michael Picheco, the store’s grocery, frozen foods, and dairy manager, along with Timothy Dolnier, the deli and prepared food manager, recently reached a stock purchase agreement with Mr. Keating. The deal closed Monday, though terms were not disclosed.

Mr. Keating, the head of Village Market since 1989, said at the store on Tuesday morning he was excited to hand over leadership of the market to someone within the company.

“I’m very excited. After looking at many opportunities and proposed deals, this was by far the best in terms of continuity for the staff and the community,” he said.

An offer from an out-of-state retailer to purchase the market, Mr. Keating added, encouraged him to seriously look at the future of the business. He has been retired from the day-to-day operations of the store for six years.

“I’ve known for some time that my children would not be carrying on the legacy of the Village Market. Since I retired, I’ve been wondering what the next chapter for the market would be,” he said. “Tim and Mike have worked here for a while, and had expressed interest in being owners.”

When the time came to sell, he saw his two employees as the best option for a new ownership team.

New ownership

Mr. Dolnier, the son of the market’s general manager, Nancy Dolnier, and Mr. Picheco said they plan on leading the market with the same philosophy as the previous owner.

“I’ve worked here for 15 years,” Mr. Picheco said, “so I know the business very well. We’ve both learned a lot from Peter, and I really wanted this store to be my future. We will continue to provide a great shopping experience for our customers, and a great working environment for our employees.”

The pair have no plans to make immediate changes within the store, and will remain in their roles as managers. Ms. Dolnier will remain the general manager.

“Peter has provided us with a great foundation to start from,” Mr. Picheco said. “There is a strong, positive work environment for our employees. That is something Peter has provided us with over the past years,” and is something the new ownership plans to continue.

Community appeal

While many independent grocers have fallen under pressure from “big-box” stores, Mr. Dolnier said, the Wilton community’s approach to commerce has helped the Village Market excel.

“We’re fortunate enough to have a community that supports independent business,” he said. “We provide a unique mix of products, and a legacy of strong customer service,” which is something the community appreciates, he said.

“This is how we’ve always differentiated ourselves from the competition,” he added, “and it is how we will continue to build upon our success.”

Because the community’s support has always been so expansive, both men plan on continuing support for the many community service initiatives the Village Market is known to value.

“Obviously the community has been very helpful for us. They’ve supported us and, as such, the Village Market has a responsibility to support them. That sense of community has not been lost on us,” Mr. Dolnier said. “We will continue to look at every opportunity that comes to us, and do our best to be there to help any way we can.”

Working with mom

When asked about the experience of being his mother’s boss, Mr. Dolnier looked away and grinned.

“I knew you would ask that question,” he said with a laugh. “My mom and I have a great personal and working relationship. She’s known about this plan since day one, and has been as supportive as anyone could hope for. There are no concerns that it will continue to be a great relationship.”

Ms. Dolnier’s son was quick to point out that it is Nancy, and not himself, that has been a true staple of the Wilton community at large.

“My mom is the face of Village Market,” he said. “She has added so much to what the store is, and she will absolutely continue” to do so.