Editorial: One family to another

Posted

It's disconcerting news when the town's grocery store gets sold. Change in such cases is not always good.

But for shoppers and employees of Lees Market in Westport, there's reason to suspect that life will go on — that the world as we know it hasn't been knocked for a loop.

Albert Lees III announced last week that he is selling his family's Lees Market  grocery operation to Tracy Clements, operator of Clements' Market in Portsmouth.

That's huge in Westport. Forget Town Hall — Lees Market is the de facto center of town, the place people in this spread-out town see each other once in awhile, catch up on the goings-on and do much of their shopping.

But there's a good feel to this one ...

• It's still all in the family: These two groceries go way back. Don Clements was manager at Lees years ago; Al Lees II helped Mr. Clements start his Portsmouth market. No wonder the two stores are similar in many ways.

• No mega-chain is moving in to inflict its way on Westport.

• Al Lees III isn't skipping town, won't become a "snowbird." He still owns the building, and  wine/liquor store, his family name is still on the sign, and he vows to patrol the grocery aisles as always. And the change of pace will allow him more time to chronicle Westport's history on his website.

• Both Clements' and Lees share a buy-local ethic, good news for area farmers, lobstermen, cheese makers …

• Both are big supporters of community. Neither Anthony nor Lees is any good at saying no to the local groups that make these two stores their first stop when trying to drum up support for the next  barbecue/supper/fair/clamboil etc. fundraiser.

• Both have family traditions looking over their shoulders. Even rearranging the aisles must be a challenge with long-timers around to remind them that 'your dad wouldn't stand for this!'

Mr. Lees expects that few shoppers will notice the difference come February when the paperwork is complete.

That's a good thing.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.