BIDDEFORD – With shoppers waiting outside, the doors were opened about 75 minutes ahead of schedule Sunday morning at the new Market Basket grocery store at the Biddeford Crossing plaza on Route 111.
Micum McIntire, the store’s manager, said even though the official opening was set for 7 a.m., the store wanted to accommodate the predawn customers.
“Good morning, shoppers, and welcome to our first store in the state,” McIntire announced over the sound system as shoppers poured in.
By 7:15 a.m., the 500-car parking lot was full and lines were forming at all 24 registers as customers browsed 9-foot-wide aisles stocked with gleaming rows of perfectly arranged products.
Shoppers had 60,000 different products to choose from.
The 107,000-square-foot store is the largest supermarket in Maine, according to Market Basket officials.
The Massachusetts-based chain enters an increasingly competitive market in Maine.
Less than a decade ago the supermarket landscape was dominated by Hannaford and Shaw’s. With the entry of warehouse and discount department stores and high-end specialty stores, that landscape now includes Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, Walmart and Target stores.
Known for its low prices, Market Basket operates stores in 71 other locations. David McLean, Market Basket’s operations manager, said that based on customer demand, the company had been looking for a Maine location and saw an opportunity in the space vacated by Lowe’s at Biddeford Crossing.
“Biddeford is turning into a shopping mecca,” McLean said.
He pointed out the new store’s tiled floors and covered ceilings, which he said offer shoppers a more aesthetically pleasing experience than warehouse stores.
On Sunday morning, many of the early shoppers said they had been driving to the nearest Market Basket — more than 30 miles away in New Hampshire — for years.
“I usually go to the Market Basket in Portsmouth,” said Helen Bergeron of Sanford, one of the first shoppers through the registers.
Christina Shea of Saco pushed a cart, one of 750 at the store, piled high with goods. She carried a shopping list and coupons, but her cart included a number of impulse purchases she said she had to buy because the prices were so good.
“The cart is full, so I have got to stop,” said Shea.
Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at: