Construction, New Store Tangle Strip Along Morrissey

The new behemoth along the Boulevard has met with hearty welcomes and grumpy bah-humbugs, leaving both the commercial fraternity and prospective shoppers unsure just what to think about the suddenly-crowded parking lot out front of National Wholesale Liquidators.

The home goods warehouse, a Long Island-based chain that opened October 28, has drawn "a lot more [customers] than we had anticipated," said store manager Ralph Torti. While merchants at neighboring shops and potential customers have expressed frustration at the paucity of parking spaces - a problem that Torti insisted will subside once the initial rush of shoppers dies down - some local small businessmen anticipate bolstered sales as a result of the big store. Others think the excavation project where the Mutual gas station used to be, which has morphed from a reconstruction job into a massive removal of contaminated soil, has been more of a hindrance to business.

According to one construction worker on the job, the project involves pumping 500 gallons of water per minute out of the pit, in order to bring the water table to an acceptable level before the new gas tanks are installed in the ground. Environmental overseers have been monitoring the project.

According to Mano Costomiris, owner of neighboring Puritan Pizza, the work site out front has impacted customer flow far more than the superstore next door.

"Today, for example, how many cars on this side? None," Costomiris said Monday. "These things out front, these bulldozers have affected the business, not [National Wholesale Liquidators]." Costomiris said the construction has eliminated more than 30 spaces.

With the enormous influx of potential customers to a parcel that a month ago held only a vacant Bradlees, business owners are also looking forward to increased passersby who might decide to stop off at one of the neighboring shops, either at Puritan Plaza to the south, or the strip including CVS, Blockbuster, and Linda Mae's - sold in September and poised to shift to new management - to the north.

Andrea Wilkes, manager of Blockbuster on the superstore's northern flank, said she hadn't noticed a drop-off in business, and didn't anticipate much of a change at all, but said many customers were complaining about cars parking along the access road, a hard time finding a parking space, or shopping carts scattered across the property.

"It's making a mess here, for parking," Wilkes said. "It's kind of a pain."

Torti said he had spotted an NWL shopping cart along the side of Gallivan Boulevard near Adams St. He pulled over and put it in his car, he said, adding that NWL employers will be conducting periodic sweeps of the neighborhood to collect discarded carts.

Torti said the store had met with other merchants and community leaders, and would listen to their concerns.

"I think that one of the things that has stood out has been the number of customers who have approached me and said how happy they are to have the store, how much of a vacancy there was in this market," Torti said, adding that the store has stretched past its "target market" within a three-mile radius to attract customers from Revere, Brookline, Newton, Weymouth, and Cape Cod.