Fresh Food Source Comes Downtown
Randolph’s downtown will gain a natural foods grocery and a
restaurant in about one month, when Chef’s Market, on Route 12 near
Central Supplies, relocates to the historic railway station on Depot
The market’s owners, Scott and Tammy Aronson of Braintree, this week pledged to have their new location up and running by May 1. The extra square footage in the new location will allow the Aronsons to add sitdown dining—in a 28-seat mezzanine—to their offerings, as well as to expand their local meats department, the couple said.
The handsome, turn-of-the-century, brick train station that will be the market’s new home is owned by Sam and Jinny Sammis of Randolph, who bought the building— and much of Salisbury Street—from the Canadian National Railway in 2003. The depot, which was boarded up and vacant at the time, had for years housed the King & I gift shop, and before that was the home of Depot Square Pharmacy. The Sammises poured a reported $1 million into an extensive rehab effort that preserved the structure’s historic features while adding a full kitchen, a mezzanine, and all-new wiring.
In 2005, the Sammises and then-partner and Three Stallion Inn chef Bob Hildebrand opened the Randolph Depot restaurant, serving breakfasts and lunches seven days a week, until the Sammises shuttered the establishment in 2016. Scott Aronson, who spent most of his working life as a chef in high-end restaurants, including the Equinox resort and spa in Manchester, is clearly delighted to be moving into a larger and well-appointed kitchen.
While Chef’s Market’s popular heat-and-eat meals will still be available at the new location, Chef Aronson has had a grand time coming up with a series of “seasonal menus” that will be available for sit-down eating at the new location.
“For me,” he said, “you can make anything in this kitchen.”
One of his biggest challenges, he added, has been to “distill” all that possibility into a series of seasonal menus that will mesh with local tastes and budgets. Planned “plated brunch and lunch” options will include eggs Benedict, eggs Romanoff, crepes, omelettes, lobster rolls, and pulled pork and slaw.
Seven Days a Week
Chef’s Market will continue to be open seven days a week, and with the same hours of operation. The sit-down meals will be available daily as well, with the kitchen closing an hour or two before the store does.
Moving Chef’’s Market downtown will also allow the Aronsons to forge a new “synergy” with Chef’’s Downtown Deli—an eatery at 29 North Main Street operated by their son Brandon. Although Chef’’s Market will no longer purvey deli sandwiches, the popular line of sandwiches will continue to be available at Chef’s Downtown Deli.
Tammy noted that “the market will stay the market,” with the inventory largely unchanged, except for the planned expansion of local meats.
And, although the new site is slightly larger than the current one, the market will remain a relatively small one, focused on stocking goods that are “as much organic and as much local” as possible, and with an aim to keep prices as competitive as possible.
Shoppers may not find items commonly sold in supermarkets and drugstores at Chef’s Market, but it will be the only place in Randolph’s downtown, Scott pointed out, “to buy an apple and lettuce.”
The market will continue to sell crafts and gift items, including work by Tunbridge glass-blower Janet Zug. Tammy plans to display these items in the mezzanine.
Looking for a Home
Tammy noted that over the past six years she and Scott have explored moving into multiple downtown sites, “everything from the old coop to Belmain’s.”
Those explorations included occasional conversations with the Sammises, who have multiple holdings in town and have put all of them on the market in the last few years.
The Aronsons started serious discussions with Sam Sammis about moving to the depot around Christmas, Tammy said.
“It took a little negotiation time and thought,” Aronson said, adding that Sammis “really stepped up” to make the move possible on a lease basis. This has included his paying for all the necessary rehabs needed to convert the space to suit the Aronsons’ needs.
“He really likes Chef’’s Market, he’s been supportive, he wants us to succeed, and feels [the move] is good for the town,” she said.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Sammis noted that his extended family “are great fans of the Chef’s Market—we’re there on almost a daily basis.”
In addition to the healthy foods and local crafts, he noted, the store’s assets include the Aronsons themselves.
“They’ve got great personalities— people love to come in and just chat with them.”
Sammis noted that the work he had done to upgrade the building 14 years ago included all new windows— specially made to recreate the style of the original ones—as well as a new roof, HVAC systems, and interior walls.
“I really think their business just fits into the building well,” he added.
Tammy Aronson noted that the small park adjacent to the depot belongs to the property. Picnic tables will be set up there for outdoor dining, and live music might be added to the scene as well.
The Aronsons plan to keep their current location open as they setup the new store and start moving inventory and supplies. It will likely be necessary to close the business for perhaps three days to complete the final transition to the downtown, they said.