PAULINE SOUTER of Bath buys dog food from Pet Quarters’ employee Aprille Marie of Brunswick. Souter said she was sorry to hear the Brunswick store was closing.

PAULINE SOUTER of Bath buys dog food from Pet Quarters’ employee Aprille Marie of Brunswick. Souter said she was sorry to hear the Brunswick store was closing.

BRUNSWICK

Kathy Pio, district manager of Maine-owned and operated Pet Quarters at Merrymeeting Plaza, said they were surprised by the news that national chain PetSmart had signed a long-term lease to occupy space just three doors down.

“The way we found out was one of my employees was walking up to CVS to get something and they saw some shirts that had PetSmart on it,” Pio said.

Pio called the owner, Joseph Pio, who in turn contacted plaza operators WS Management, who later confirmed the pet superstore was moving into the 17,000-square-foot retail space — more than twice the size of Pet Quarters.

“That was the notice we received,” Kathy Pio said on Friday.

That afternoon employees were cleaning and dismantling shelves and moving stock. Fish aquariums were empty and a sign hung in the window, thanking patrons for their business and announcing the store will close its doors on July 24.

Pio said WS Management had been trying for years to attract national retailers with little success.

“They let us know that PetSmart was coming in so we could have stayed had we wanted to, but I guess we felt a real sense of disloyalty

— and we said that to the person who does the leasing,” Pio said.

She said her small crew felt blindsided by the news.

Pet Quarters had been in Merrymeeting Plaza for nearly 19 years. During that time, Pio said she couldn’t even name all the businesses she’d seen come and go.

“Old Navy, the bookstore, Famous Footware — the list goes on and on, pages of national companies that left the mall and we stayed. Even when they had the other (stores), we’re down at the end with the old AAA space that’s been vacant for 15 years,” Pio said.

Pio said Pet Quarters, however, stayed at the plaza “through thick and thin.”

Pio said Pet Quarters has five other stores in Maine, with the closest in Falmouth. Each location, she said, has been able to bear the brunt of national competition, but then nothing has ever moved into the same plaza offering the same merchandise.

Early last week, WS Management had told The Times Record that they didn’t anticipate any conflicts between the two businesses — something Pio said was “ridiculous.”

Pio said WS Management has every right to bring in a national company seeking a long-term lease, but said the way WS handled the situation was “unprofessional.”

Efforts to reach WS Management on Friday were unsuccessful.

“ They did reduce our rent last year. As of last year, they really wanted us to stay because we were contemplating leaving over the last couple of years. But (we) decided no — we’ll stay for our customers,” Pio said.

It was the customers she felt the most sorry for, as Pio said she had to console one customer in the store who had just received the news.

“The customers we have now have been our customers — the shopping center is dead and they come either to Shaw’s or come to Pet Quarters. So it’s something they’re very disappointed in,” Pio said.

Pio said she has had offers to open elsewhere in the Brunswick area, but as of yet they have no plans to open new locations.

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