Russo’s Property Sold for North of $30 Million, Will be Closing in October

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Russo’s

A produce shelf in Russo’s market, which will be closing in October.

The price tag for properties on Pleasant Street owned by Russo’s came in well above the assessed value, according to reported sales prices, and the beloved market and garden center will be closing in October.

Loyal customers mourned the news of the impending closing of the Watertown institution. Russo’s began as a family farm in 1893 and they sold their produce in Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. It was started by owner Tony Russo’s grandfather Antonio, who emigrated from a village near Naples, Italy. In 1947, the business was conglomerated as A. Russo & Sons and was passed down to brothers Olgo (Tony’s father) and Gildo Russo.

In a letter to the Watertown Town Council, a representative of Russo’s said that the business will close in mid-October, at which time 239 employees will be laid off, including 47 baggers, 26 cashiers, 20 warehouse clerks, 19 drivers, 15 produce clerks, 13 processing clerks, and 11 deli clerks.

The Russo’s market property was sold for $36.5 million to NewTower Trust Company, of Bethesda, Md., according to a report on Wicked Local Watertown. The sale includes 4.8 acres, made up of four parcels on Pleasant Street.

Google Maps

A satellite image of the Russo’s property from Google Maps. The 4.8 acre property is split into four parcels: the parking lot on the right of Paramount Place is 532-542 Pleasant St., the small lot just right of the building is 550 Pleasant St., most of the building is on 560 Pleasant St., and a small portion of the building and the parking to the left is 570 Pleasant St.

The land on which most of the building sits is 560 Pleasant St., while a piece of the western portion of the building and the parking area on the west side is 570 Pleasant St. The lot near the warehouse area is 550 Pleasant Street, and the the land on which the market is located and he parking lot on the other side of Paramount Place (the eastern driveway) parking to the west is 532-542 Pleasant St.

The assessed value of the four parcels combined was just over $9 million, including the land and the building. The assessed value of the land of the main property with the market (550, 560 and 570 Pleasant St.) $3.58 million, while the building is assessed at $3.85 million, according to the listing on the Massachusetts Interactive Property Map on the MassGIS website. The parking lot closer to the Sons of Italy is assessed at $1.44 million.

Land along Pleasant Street has been going for well above the assessed value in recent years. The property at 580 Pleasant St., which is behind Russo’s if you are on the street, sold for $21.5 million, Boston Real Estate Times reported in January. The 5.69 acre parcel is assessed at $10.69 million. That property is being developed as life science lab space.

No one has come forward with plans to redevelop the Russo’s property, said Assistant Town Manager Steve Magoon, but he expects it to happen soon. Most of the new projects in Watertown have been for biotech research and development space.

9 thoughts on “Russo’s Property Sold for North of $30 Million, Will be Closing in October

  1. He will have no legacy. Turned his back on the 239 loyal employees and the hundreds of loyal customers who made Tony Russo wealthy. He could have sold to an entity to keep such an outstanding business running. Instead he did a “take the money and run”, very sad..says a lot about him. He will not be remembered by many with a positive legay.

    • I don’t know any person that would not have made the same decision the Russo family made. I would guess that when it gets close to closing time for Russo’s that the family will do well by it’s employees.

      As for his legacy, I don’t see how this tarnishes it at all. Maybe instead of being angry at this we should all be thankful for the years Russo’s served the community including the many times they donated to local organizations. Running a business like that is not easy at all. They have put in long hours, had to deal with and modify the business through a pandemic and may even have lost business during the pandemic from wholesale sales.

      Let’s hope that Watertown taxpayers somehow benefit from this by having a piece of property sell for $36 million. The assessors office should be changing the taxes on this for the upcoming year to reflect the sale price of $36 Million and the Commercial rate in town at $22.97. That’s a lot of new money that the town has every right to gain.

    • Sorry that you feel that way.butTony Russo has employed many people over the years. I personally worked for Tony 20 years or so ago and the Russo family is one of the fairest people to work for.
      .

  2. Best of luck to Mr. Russo on his retirement.
    There is not a single one of you that wouldn’t have done the same for that kind of money.

  3. Russo’s was on the clock after millions was spent on the land and building in back of it. You can’t fault Russo for taking a fabulous amount of cash and given that no younger Russo wanted to take over, it made his decision all the more easier. Only problem I have is that he was not upfront and honest with his employees with his so called reason of retirement. The letter he sent to staff was disingenuous, I read it for myself.

  4. Choose A or B

    A) Run a business selling Bosc Pears, Bok Choy and Shallots.
    B) Sell out and gross $36,500,000 from the sale.

    The correct choice will determine your suitability for admission to Harvard Business School.

  5. The Russo family built a wonderful business. They worked harder than most would imagine to grow it to the place it is now. I’m talking L O N G, L O N G, L O N G hours every single day of the year…no matter what the weather – or what else was going on in their lives. Building a business as solid as that takes an enormous amount of time, energy and commitment.

    With no one in the family interested in taking that commitment on the smartest thing was to sell it. It’s harder to find employees — people who really care more about keeping the quality up with enthusiasm and hard work.

    To sell it to someone who wouldn’t keep that quality up with your name on it just doesn’t make sense.

    Thank you for the real pleasure of doing business with you. That attention to detail made a difference to everyone…..Russo’s will be missed.

  6. Congratulations on retirement.

    Thank you for so many years of quality groceries, especially produce, deli, dairy, bakery, nursery, etc. etc.

    I keep hoping the name, too, will be sold with stipulations and that the draw of Russo’s will continue nearby and with the dedicated staffing that made Mr. Russo’s skills, experience and determination into a market that means so much more than just another grocery store to so many of us.

  7. It’s a wonderful story. I wonder how it will end for the 239ish displaced (especially long-time, loyal) employees.

    Usually when a ‘Mom & Pop’ shop closes, amongst the public outcry of, “Just what we needed, more condos or another bank,” I defend the owners for closing ‘on their terms’ and cashing in their de facto (often non-existent) 401k.

    I’ve been emailing and texting local friends and journalists wondering if anyone was researching the angle of the story that many people are wondering about–Will Tony take care of his employees (especially the long-time, loyal staff)? It’s a perspective that’s rarely researched and reported on in detail, including interviews with several employees, not just a small sampling of disgruntled ax grinders.

    I’d love to hear that Russo’s employees were given ample lead time to plan their transition, and told that if they stayed on through closing, they would receive a bonus based on a creative formula of years of service and hours worked. Hopefully, they’ll receive a bonus and transitional assistance, even if they move on before the final day (some won’t be able to wait).

    I also sent the following message to Tony Russo via the contact page on the Russo’s website: “Good morning. My name is Patrick Maguire. I write a blog, ‘Server Not Servant,’ advocating for service industry workers. This message is for Tony. Congratulations to you and your team on your impending, well-deserved retirement. I’m aware of the sale price of your property and the preliminary plans for the site. I’ve read every article I could find about the sale of Russo’s. I’m working on a blog post about how your employees are being treated, through and after you close. Please contact me with your email address so I can explain my thoughts in more detail and ask some questions. I want to give you ample opportunity to respond in detail before I publish my piece.” (I received an email confirming receipt.)

    If you work at Russo’s or know anyone who does who would be interested in communicating for a potential story, please PM or email me at patrick@servernotservant.com. Thank you.

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