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November 11, 2013

Hiller’s Market leaves Berkley, new market moves into location

By Joshua Gordon
C & G Staff Writer

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Hiller’s Market leaves Berkley, new market moves into location
Hiller’s Market in Berkley, which had been in the community for more than 60 years, closed its doors Nov. 10 after management decided there wasn’t enough room to renovate they way they had hoped. New market, Royal Fresh Market, was opened in the same location this week by a new owner.

BERKLEY — After more than 60 years of serving the Berkley community, Hiller’s Market has left town.

CEO Jim Hiller and his son, Vice President Justin Hiller, posted a message to Hiller’s shoppers on their Facebook page in September that the Berkley store would be closing Nov. 1 amid a need for more space for expansion. The closing date changed in late October from Nov. 1 to Nov. 10.

“The store is in dire need of renovation; however, the small footprint of the space makes it impossible for us to renovate to the standards of our other stores,” the message said. “We are not abandoning the neighborhood, however. We are currently in negotiations for another site in the Berkley/Royal Oak area and plan to build a spectacular new store that is up to the standards of our other markets.”

The good news for Berkley residents, however, is the Hillers worked to get another market in the old building before they left, helping business owner Mark Zaitona open up Royal Fresh Market this week at the same location, 3052 12 Mile Road.

Zaitona owns and operates two Mr. B’s Supermarkets in the Flint area and has been working in the supermarket business for about 20 years. Zaitona, who lives in Troy, said when he found out about Hiller’s Market leaving Berkley, he thought it was a great opportunity to continue to offer the same service to the residents.

“The area needed a store, and I think there is a future there,” he said. “There is not a store within a bunch of miles, and I have a brother that lives along that area and I drive around there and like the area. We are going to be doing good customer service and treating people right, and when you do that, (the customers) will take care of you right.

“We will do our best to have the best service in here.”

Hiller’s Market began in Berkley in the 1950s and has continued to develop around Michigan, opening stores in Ann Arbor, Commerce Township, Northville, Plymouth, West Bloomfield and, most recently, South Lyon.

Because of the limited space in the building, Hiller’s wasn’t able to add some of the amenities that customers have become accustomed to at the markets in other locations. Zaitona said he would remodel and organize the store completely differently than Hiller’s and make the store his own.

Royal Fresh Market will carry Centrella-brand products from Central Grocers in Illinois. Zaitona said he plans to continue to have fresh meat and fresh produce at least on par with Hiller’s products.

When it comes to the response from the Berkley community about the new store, he hopes they will welcome him with open arms.

“That is a question the people will have to answer, but I have a feeling the people will support this store,” Zaitona said. “I see some people that are upset that Hiller’s is leaving and they don’t want them to leave, so we are in a situation. ... The way they did business, this place was just too small of a market for them.”

Amy Vansen, city planner for Berkley, said it was “too bad” Hiller’s had to leave Berkley, but the city understood their need to expand and possibly find a new location close by.

When it comes to the new market, she said the city is open and willing to work with Zaitona to keep the same services in the downtown area.

“This is a lovely community, and we are here to welcome the next business and help them through the process to make it an asset for the downtown and the community,” Vansen said. “The community clearly wanted to have a market, and I reminded residents that change is hard, but it is not all bad. This is a great community that welcomes new businesses when they come in.”

Mayor Phil O’Dwyer said he hopes there will be no disruption for the community while the new market opens up. And, while there are other markets near the 12 Mile area, he said having a market in the downtown Berkley area is vital for many residents.

“Berkley has a walkable downtown, and you will notice the volume of people that walk around our downtown area — it was just readily accessible for our residents to walk down to Hiller’s and pick up what they needed and walk back home,” O’Dwyer said. “The thought of that going away after 60 years was very disappointing for them. Hopefully, the new market will have the same kind of convenience in terms of hours and variety of products that will meet the need of the community.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Joshua Gordon at jgordon@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1077.