Landmark downtown Portland grocery store the last of a dying breed

Paul's Food Center (Google Street View)

Paul’s Food Center (Google Street View)

Portland television station WCSH 6 broke the news Thursday evening on a story that a number of us area journalists have been poking around on for about a week: The building that houses landmark downtown grocery store Paul’s Food Center is being sold.

The buyers, we ultimately found out, were a pair of LLCs led in part by the owner of Portland Flea-For-All, a popular Kennebec Street antique store and indoor flea market.

Employees of the grocery store I spoke to this week were aware the sale was looming, but said they hoped the grocery store would remain open under the new ownership.

Now it appears that won’t be the case, as Jim Trusiani — who took over management of the store after the September passing of his father, beloved founder Paul Trusiani — announced today the grocery store will close in April.

The trend along Congress Street and throughout downtown Portland has been that older, moderately priced retailers and eateries — a category Paul’s fits into — are being displaced by businesses catering to a wealthier clientele.

According to WCSH, there’s been a grocery store of some form or another at that Congress Street spot for more than 150 years. But now Paul’s represents the last in a dying breed of traditional downtown grocery stores, accessible for urban renters who don’t have cars, and yet still affordable for customers priced out by trendy grocery chains like Whole Foods.

One customer, Hafid Lalaoui of Cumberland Avenue, told the Press Herald last fall he doesn’t have a car and Paul’s is “the only place we have” to shop.

That sentiment was echoed by Congress Street resident Mark Cole at the time.

“I thoroughly love having his store here,” Cole told the Press Herald. “If we don’t, where are we going to go?”

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.