For the past four years I have respectfully attempted to stay out of the back and forth over the relocation of the Narragansett Public Library, a controversy which has only seemed to intensify over time in the community, at town hall and at the courthouse. All the while my family owned business, Pier Liquors, has the potential to be adversely impacted because of this controversy. Many elected officials and stakeholders have rendered their opinion on what they believe is best for my business. Now it is time for me to tell our side of the story and hopefully offer a solution to bring this matter to closure for all concerned parties.
First for a little history, my dad Vincent “Cy” Siravo and mom Shirley owned and operated Belmont Fruit. In 1949 Belmont was a summer stand located on Dale Carlia corner in Wakefield, but the 1954 hurricane demolished the store. At that time mom and dad moved Belmont to Narragansett, which also was a summer open air fruit stand and located within yards of where Pier Liquors is today. My brother Jack and I spent all our summers as kids at the Pier stand and later our sister Lisa joined us. In 1970 Belmont Fruit and all other businesses in the Pier were taken through urban renewal. In 2003, I worked with Jack and dad to open the new Belmont Market in Wakefield. Later in 2007 my brother expanded Belmont to Narragansett and I opened Pier Liquors.
I mention all of this history so that people understand that our family has long ties to this community and we have always attempted to run our businesses and manage our properties in an ethical manner.
Back to the present; as the library controversy has unraveled I have watched it divide the community and significantly impact my ability to run Pier Liquors with any sort of predictability. To that end, during the past few weeks we have begun initiating conversations to resolve the differences impacting the library, the town and our operations for all concerned parties.
As many of you know, we entered in to a purchase and sale agreement to buy the property outright, which would be our desired path. In the spirit of compromise we are willing to drop that provision in exchange for a lease that will bring stability to our business and allow the library to relocate to the Belmont Market.
There are many members of this community that support the relocation of the library while maintaining Pier Liquors, which we have operated for the past 14 years at its current location. The two entities can coexist peacefully and successfully. Our entrances are at opposite ends of the building and the police station is just yards away in addition to our own security personnel that maintain a presence during the summer months.
Pier Liquors is willing to agree to terminate the purchase and sale agreement with the town if all claims against us are dismissed in court. In exchange we are seeking to enter into a five-year lease agreement with the option to extend for an additional five years. We would certainly like to have greater options to extend, but in the spirit of compromise we are not asking for additional extensions in this lease.
We want everyone in town to have full knowledge of this offer and that it has been presented to all parties allowing the community to make their own determination if it is fair and balanced. The current dynamics are mired in rumor and have become so politically toxic that only a transparent solution has a chance of reaching the finish line.
We are asking that the lease include an area not to exceed 1,500 square feet within the Belmont Market space to construct a loading dock adjacent to our entrance. It has long been a priority of ours to have a proper loading dock and not have delivery vehicles unloading product in our rather small parking area. We are not seeking an expansion of our currently allotted 14 parking spots.
In exchange for the loading dock area we would relinquish any claim to the second floor space above our store so this could become additional space for the library.
This offer allows the library to relocate to a new and larger space in the former Belmont Market. We understand fully some library advocates would like to see us removed from the property entirely. We would humbly ask that everyone involved embrace the spirit of compromise particularly in these challenging times. We are only seeking the preservation of a small business operated by longstanding members of this community. Any notion of moving to a new location simply moves territorial disputes to another area of town and doesn’t solve the problem. In the age of Covid-19 we are asking all parties to set aside the animosities of the past and look forward with us. Together, with a fresh perspective we can accomplish everyone’s goals. Compromise cannot be achieved without everyone giving a little. We have never wanted to be a hindrance to those advocating for the library. We only ask for the same consideration.
Debra Siravo Manni
The author is the owner of Pier Liquors in Narragansett.