New retail anchor opens in Fields Corner

CW Price: Above, Sen. Jack Hart welcomed the retailer to Dorchester on Thursday morning. Photo by Ed ForryCW Price: Above, Sen. Jack Hart welcomed the retailer to Dorchester on Thursday morning. Photo by Ed ForryA clothing retailer opened its doors in the Fields Corner shopping mall today, filling a gaping hole in the business district and a valuable niche for consumers. The 28,000-square-foot location on Geneva Avenue is the first Boston store for CW Price, a New York-based company specializing in affordable family apparel and home furnishings.

The store’s opening is encouraging news for the neighborhood at large, which was dealt a setback earlier last year when HomeGoods closed its doors in the same location after less than a year in business. The HomeGoods had replaced a far more successful retailer A.J. Wright, which closed after the entire brand was phased out by corporate owners TJX.

Despite its demise, the Dorchester A.J. Wright was the best performing store of its kind in the country, according to the mall’s longtime owner, Thomas Cifrino, whose company also operates Supreme Liquors in the mall.

Cifrino says that the CW Price chain, now with 47 stores, is closely modeled on the A.J. Wright brand. In fact, the parent company of CW Price— New York’s Conway stores— purchased 45 former A.J. Wright stores in a deal last August. The Dorchester store was not included in that acquisition, but CW Price has been eager to open in Fields Corner, according to Cifrino. He expects that the new store — which has signed a 10 year lease for the Fields Corner space— will be a strong performer for the chain.

“I know they are a very good retail operator,” Cifrino said. “Their owner Abe Cohen seems to be a very decent person. And, they wanted to come into the space, which is always a good thing. There was negotiations on the lease, but they wanted to come in here.”

“They’ll be our anchor tenant and they know that,” he said, adding that even without a large anchor in place at the mall since the HomeGoods closed, businesses have seen strong sales numbers in Fields Corner. Cifrino says his own liquor store receipts are up roughly 8 percent over last year so far.

Joseph Capozzoli, a spokesman for CW Price, says that the CW Price has hired 100 new employees to staff the store. Most of them, he says, are from Dorchester or nearby neighborhoods.

“We want to be a community-driven store,” says Capozzoli. “We try to build a concept with attributes of the community and hire as many of the employees from Dorchester and the local area as possible.”

In a statement released through the Fields Corner Main Streets organization this week, CW Price’s president Abe Cohen trumpeted Thursday’s grand opening.

“We are excited to be joining the retailers in Fields Corner; our value proposition is to consistently offer exciting new merchandise while extending everyday low prices to the entire community,” Cohen said. “Our goal is to stay true to our brand, vision and tag line, you never know what great deals you might find.”

Thursday’s ceremonial 9 a.m. opening included festivities during the hour before the doors open. The first 200 customers were given free gift cards and the opportunity to win other drawing prizes, according to Capozzoli.

Local merchants hailed the store’s opening as big news for the neighborhood. A report done by the Fields Corner Main Street in 2008 showed that there’s a strong market potential within the three-quarters of a mile radius around Fields Corner Mall. Their analysis showed residents spend $25.8 million on clothing and shoes per year, but only $12.2 million of that was spent in neighborhood stores.

 “We are very happy to have a retailer like CW Price opening its newest store in Fields Corner,” said Fields Corner Main Street President Lee Adelson. “Providing affordable merchandise and value that everyone in the local and surrounding area will appreciate is a plus, and creating over 100 jobs in our business district is a benefit to everyone who lives and shops in Fields Corner.”

Other stores in the Fields Corner mall include Family Dollar, America’s Food Basket, Supreme Liquors, GameStop, Payless Shoes, Boston Check Cashers, and McDonald’s.