FREEPORT – Bow Street Market, the longtime Freeport grocery, received the 2013 Maine Grocer of the Year Award from the Maine Grocers Association on Oct. 31 – an honor that surprised owners Adam and Sheila Nappi and was a reflection not only of the Nappis’ business savvy, but also the Freeport community as a whole.

“To be honest, I was shocked,” said Adam Nappi, 46. “It’s a tremendous honor.”

Bow Street Market is a second-generation, family-owned and operated neighborhood market. It’s been in operation since 1946, but has gone through several expansions through the years. The latest expansion, in 2011, grew what used to be a small general store to a 15,000-square-foot facility that employs nearly 100 people.

Nappi’s parents, Karen and John, opened the original Bow Street Market in 1974, and Adam and his wife bought the business in 2002. Since then, the Nappis have expanded their selections to include a wide assortment of locally sourced and organic foods. It was simply a matter of meeting demand, they said.

“First it was local and then organic,” said Adam Nappi. “The beauty of our business is that people are very candid with what they’d like us to carry. We love to accommodate them, it makes good business sense. If we can match a local producer with the consumer, we facilitate that.”

Besides the thoughtfully curated items on the shelves and full butcher shop, Bow Street Market offers something else – namely, community, said Sheila Nappi.

“We are a central meeting spot for the community, partly due to geography. This is sort of a hub. We have people coming to meet in our cafe? and our state representatives holding open office hours,” she said.

The market in turn pays it forward. One example is with bottle redemption. Technically, Bow Street Market does not accept returnable cans and bottles, but it offers a collection space by the entrance where customers can drop off returnables. The store will choose a local charity each month and donate the proceeds.

“It could be the Little League team, village improvement, the Freeport Historical Society,” said Sheila Nappi.

If the Nappis have a guiding philosophy, it would be rooted in their sense of community and emphasis on customer service. While others pay lip service to the concepts, the people at Bow Street back it up, said Adam Nappi, with a full-time wine consultant on hand to help pair food with a perfect vintage and the locally famous house-made sausage. In addition, the market employs a staff with people who have worked in the store for as long as 40 years.

“I think what people respond to is how old-fashioned the market is,” said Kelly Brodeur, assistant store manager. “The food is still made from scratch and we still cut beef and grind fresh meat. The deli and bakery are full of signature items. We support local farms and provide space for them. It’s also a fun place to work. It’s a great atmosphere and the owners are hands-on, but allow people the freedom to do their jobs. It also provides a professional structure. We’re allowed to have creativity.”

The commitment to local also played a big part in the construction of the expanded market. The Nappis used local contractors and architects in the design, a testament to the quality craftsmanship available in the area, said Adam Nappi.

In addition to the butcher shop, the market offers fresh seafood, live lobsters, a rotisserie, deli meats, sushi, soups, and a fresh salad bar. As a small, independent grocer, the Nappis have the freedom to choose from a number of different purveyors. While the expansion doubled the size of the original market, it is still a third of the size of a big-box grocer, said Sheila Nappi.

“We obviously can’t have everything, but we listen to what people want,” she said.

Winning the Maine Grocer of the Year Award was a testament to the creativity the Nappis use in their approach to business, said Kim Brackett, co-owner of the Bath-based Brackett’s Market, and a past president of the Maine Grocers Association.

“It’s really about them as people and the values they bring to their business,” said Brackett. “The community aspect is what defines small grocers and Bow Street really embodies that.”

Shelley Doak, the executive director of the Maine Grocers Association, a nonprofit trade group based in Augusta, said this week the criteria used to determine the recipient of the yearly award is based on contributions to the association, community service, business excellence, and providing a healthy and positive work environment.

“Bow Street certainly fits this criteria and is a wonderful company,” said Doak.

For customers like Anthony Marlowe of Brunswick, the market has an atmosphere and attentiveness lacking in large grocery chains.

“It seems like they care,” said Marlowe. “But also that they listen.”

Adam and Sheila Nappi, owners of the Bow Street Market, were recently honored as the Maine Grocer of the Year by the Maine Grocers Association. “We listen to what people want,” says Sheila Nappi.

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