Spenser Hasak

Looking to stay Whole: Lynnfield, Swampscott shoppers are hopeful

Nathaniel Parker of Portsmouth, N.H., reacts to the sale of Whole Foods to Amazon.


LYNNFIELDWhole Foods Market customers didn’t have anything bad to say after the Internet giant, Amazon, purchased the grocery store Friday morning.

They did raise one concern, however. They don’t want change.

“I’ll keep shopping here,” said Nathaniel Parker of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, “as long as they don’t mess up the formula.”

Amazon purchased the grocery chain at $42 a share, or $13.4 billion, making it the largest deal in company history. Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos is reportedly paying a 27% premium on Whole Foods shares.

Whole Foods, which opened its first location on September 20, 1980 in Austin, Texas, has 30 locations in Massachusetts, according to their website.

The purchase raises shoppers’ concerns as to what might change in their beloved Lynnfield and Swampscott locations.

Carol Herdic, who is visiting her daughter from Miami, wasn’t aware of the purchase but is very familiar with Amazon and its services.

“I order from it almost every day,” she said. “I own Echo and Alexa and buy certain groceries on there, although I don’t use Amazon Pantry. I do, however, use the subscribe and save feature.”

She too hopes Amazon doesn’t have any plans to change Whole Food’s current product.

“I find it very interesting because I heard Amazon cuts its price in order to get to its customer,” she said. “And you don’t think of that when you think of Whole Foods since it is more of a premium market.

Although Herdic said she’s unsure of what might become of the two companies, it might mean that Amazon is changing its business model, or that Whole Foods might becoming cheaper, she said. She’s interested to see what will happen.

The news comes after Amazon expanded into the brick and mortar industry earlier this year as the Internet legend opened eight bookstores across the country, with more set to come.

The store manager at Amazon Books in Lynnfield declined to comment on the purchase of Whole Foods, citing restrictions placed on employees regarding talking with the media.

The manager of Whole Foods in Lynnfield was not available for a comment at this time.

Emily Brengle of Ipswich said she doesn’t really have any idea of what might become of the store as she loaded her car with groceries at the Lynnfield location.

She uses Amazon for online shopping and really enjoys Amazon Prime, the company’s two-day shipping service.

“The only thing I care about is whether Whole Foods is going to change,” she said.

Matt Demirs can be reached at mdemirs@itemlive.com

Day of fun and games

Walter Day looks through past articles of The Item that were written about him.


LYNN — When Walter Day played his first video game, Pong, in the early 1970s, he felt the concept was too alien and didn’t like it. So how did he end up with the title of founder of competitive gaming and as the inspiration of a Disney character?

It started with a move from his hometown of Lynn to Fairfield, Iowa, in search of a stronger connection to transcendental meditation. The deep sense of renewal and happiness is what Day said led him to his success.

Eight years after his overwhelming experience, a friend asked him to play Space Invaders at the Malibu Grand Prix arcade.

“That night I fell in love with video games,” Day said.

After Space Invaders came Pacman and the appreciation never died, he said. He opened an arcade of his own in Ottumwa, Iowa, called Twin Galaxies. Three months later, he read about a child in Chicago who played Defender for 15 straight hours on a single quarter. A man came up to Day and told him he could beat the record. That week, he kept his game going for 25 straight hours, said Day.

The game caught the attention of local media, who followed the game blow by blow. Day said it was the first time he noticed a regional interest in video game competitions on a scale comparable to sporting events.

Curious about the world record, Day reached out to seven game manufacturers and two gaming magazines. All reported that they didn’t keep track of video game records. He took it upon himself to hang a whiteboard and record top scores. While traveling across the country selling antique newspapers, he would stop in at the nearest arcades for a quick game of Pacman and take note of the arcade’s records.

Soon the 1967 graduate of Lynn English High School was getting calls from arcades near and far who wanted to record their high scores. Magazines caught wind and included charts with Day’s highest scorers. He called the operation the Twin Galaxies National Scoreboard. The operation was featured in the 1982 Year in Review edition of Life Magazine, he said.

Guinness World Records considers it to be the official supplier of verified world records for video game competitions.

“It was this new concept of man versus machine and everyone was interested,” he said. “When I traveled the nation, I noted that these people were local celebrities. This was the birth of what they call eSports now. We organized the arcades into a global eSports arena so that anyone could compete against anybody anywhere, while comparing their scores.”

In the early 2000s, Day appeared in about half a dozen documentaries about the birth of video games, including “Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade” and “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.”

But nothing tops being the inspiration for a Disney character, he said.

Day said the Mr. Stan Litwak character from the 2012 Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures computer-animated film “Wreck-it Ralph” is undoubtedly based on him. In the movie, Mr. Litwak is the owner of Litwak’s arcade, where the plot takes place. Litwak wears the same iconic, long-sleeved black and white striped shirt that Day wore in the ’90s full time and in each and every documentary where he’s appeared.

Day said Litwak even wears the same, uncommon brand and sports the same mustache and profile that he did in the ’90s.

“Three times now I’ve been told by people with artistic insight in Disney that it was intended to be me,” he said. “I’m a tribute character. Not many people can say they’re a Disney character.”

Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

New chapter for former Lynn fire chief

Jack Barry of Lynn is set to become a funeral director at Conway Cahill-Brodeur Funeral Home in Peabody.


After more than three decades on the Lynn Fire Department,  District Chief Jack Barry retired last year.

But instead of playing golf, fishing or visiting far-off lands the 60-year-old retiree has a new career. He’s a licensed funeral director.

“I guess I’m a workaholic,” he said. “After a very successful and satisfying career with the Lynn Fire Department, which was a lifelong dream for me, to have a second career at my age is great.”

Among his new duties include meeting with families, helping plan services, embalming and preparing bodies, planning and organizing wakes and memorial services and placing obituary notices in newspapers.

While the job is dramatically different from fighting fires, Barry said there are parallels.

“I serve families and take care of people in their greatest time of need,” he said.

It’s the perfect job, he said, following years of working in stressful situations often with lives on the line.  

“It’s a great job for retirees,” he said. “It’s a few hours in the morning and a few in the afternoon.”

Fire Chief James McDonald said Barry was among the best district chiefs he ever worked for and with.

“He loved the job that much and he lived and breathed the fire service,” he said.  “He’s earned his time off, but he loves helping people and this is his way to ease into retirement.”

Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Were prog rock icons great? Yes!

Jon Davison performs in Yes during the Yes – The Album Series concert at the Lynn Memorial Auditorium on Thursday.


LYNN — The death of founding bassist Chris Squire last year means there are no original members in the current touring band of progressive rock titans Yes.

Jon Anderson seems content to work with Jean Luc Ponty and focus on the upcoming “An Evening of Yes Music & More” tour with Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman (at Boston’s Wang Theater on Oct. 19).

To further complicate matters, longtime drummer Alan White, who joined in 1972, is recuperating from recent back surgery and had to sit out Thursday night’s show at Lynn Memorial Auditorium.

Steve Howe, of YES, jams on the guitar during the YES - The Album Series concert at Lynn Memorial Auditorium on Thursday. shasak | Item Live

Steve Howe, of Yes, jams on the guitar during the Yes – The Album Series concert at Lynn Memorial Auditorium on Thursday.

So, how did the lineup of Steve Howe (guitars), Geoff Downes (keyboards), Billy Sherwood (bass), Jay Schellen (drums) and Jon Davison (vocals) fare? Pretty darn well, thank you very much.

But this was truly a show for Yes die-hards. Marginal fans who went expecting to hear “Owner of a Lonely Heart” — a turgid pile of you know what IMHO — and other radio-friendly tunes were probably ready to take poison about halfway through the close-to-25-minute set-ending “Ritual (Nous Sommes du Soleil).”

This was also the hardest rocking, aggressive-sounding Yes show I’ve seen in a long time. The band is on the road performing the 1980 album “Drama” in its entirety, sides 1 and 4 of 1973’s  bombastic, fantastic opus “Tales from Topographic Oceans” and a handful of greatest “hits.”

The stage was jam-packed with instruments and equipment. The space allotted for Downes’ keyboards was larger than my first apartment.

The six songs from the hard-rocking “Drama” kicked things off. Howe was on fire from the start, the menacing “Machine Messiah,” to the beautiful acoustic solo during “Leaves of Green.” He was a man possessed. He came to play, and drummer Schellen pushed him all night.

Vocalist Davison sounds so much like Anderson it’s eerie. He hits high notes that only dogs can hear; his tighty-whities must’ve been particularly tight. He shined on “Into the Lens” and fan favorites “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Siberian Khatru,” which revved up the crowd even more before a 20-minute interval (that’s Brit-speak for intermission).

It’s a shame White missed the gig, because the ambitious “Topographic Oceans” was the first Yes album he played on. (Steven Wilson has remixed the double album; it will be released next month.) I always found the album indulgent and banal, but the crowd was jazzed and attentive and even rowdy during the long (20-minutes-plus) “The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn)” and especially the percussion freakout with synchronized lights and smoke in “Ritual.”

The encore (that’s Brit-speak for encore), a one-two punch of “Roundabout” and “Starship Trooper,” got the crowd clapping, standing and cheering.

Bill Brotherton can be reached at bbrotherton@itemlive.com

“All fired up” in City Hall

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo light up the stage at the Lynn Memorial Auditorium on Thursday during the Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo: We Live For Love Tour.


 LYNN — Pat Benatar is more than just someone who was manufactured by MTV, even if she owes much of her early fame to exposure on the cable station. Indeed, Benatar was the first female artist ever featured on the fledgling all-music-video channel in 1981, something she acknowledged proudly Thursday night at Lynn Memorial Auditorium when she launched her version of the Rascals’ song “You Better Run,” a tune she made her own, then and now.

Today, Benatar is 63, and her voice shows the strains from 37 years of singing pop hits. While her pipes may be mature, they were still up to the test.

From the opening “All Fired Up” to the closing “Heartbreaker,” she didn’t miss a note, and had a blast frolicking around the stage with her husband/guitarist Neil Giraldo, whom she married in 1983.

He wrote many of Benatar’s hits, including “We Belong,” a song he made sure had an iconic beginning that would be instantly recognized. As soon as he played the first notes, it was.

Benatar split time between the hits, or as she called them “the holy 14, the songs I have to play if I don’t want to get grief on Facebook,” and some lesser-known ones. Also included was a tribute to the late Prince, “When Doves Cry.”

Another highlight was “Hell is for Children,” which she wrote with her husband after seeing a TV special in a New York hotel room.

“I hope the day comes when we never have to do this song again,” she told the large crowd in the auditorium.

No Benatar show would be complete without “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “Love Is A Battlefield” and “Invincible.” They were performed with gusto, as were all the rest. Despite all the pounding she’s done to her voice, it’s clear Pat Benatar still has it.

Steve Krause can be reached at skrause@itemlive.com.



Plenty brewing on Commercial Street in Lynn

Crowds gathered at the Bent Water Brewing Co. Blast Off celebration on Saturday for beer, food, music and a tour of the facilities.


LYNN – Check brewery off the list of the city’s attractions.

The Bent Water Brewing Co. held its grand opening Saturday on Commercial Street just off the Lynnway.

The event featured tours of the facility, live music, local food and, yes, beer.

Thanks to a $200,000 start-up loan by the Lynn Economic Development and Industrial Corp. Bent Water was able to get its start.

Managing partner Aaron Reames called the loan a “meaningful token of support,” and praised the EDIC for its early support.

Reames, a Swampscott resident and financial manager at Columbia Threadneedle Investments, a Boston-based global asset management group, said he and Master Brewer John Strom considered sites in Marblehead and Swampscott while searching for potential brewery locations. But neither were a good fit.

Reames said he made the decision to locate in Lynn after consulting with EDIC/Lynn Executive Director Jim Cowdell, and Nick Meninno of Meninno Construction in Lynn.

“Lynn has fantastic water, and the city really embraced us,” Reames said.

Formerly Lynn Lumber, Reames said he and Strom, along with managing partners and investors Chris Crawford and Michael Shaughnessy, lease the building from Meninno.

Lynn Business Park RT and the Nicholas Mennino Trust bought the 84,000-square-foot lot in 2014 for $1.4 million.

Reames, an Ohio native, studied molecular genetics at Ohio State University before receiving his Master’s of Business Administration from Franklin University in 2000.

The 42-year-old entrepreneur said he started brewing beer in his garage in 2002 before searching for potential locations six years later.

“Going from brewing in my garage to this, there’s really no comparison,” he said.

While Bent Water can store up to 15,000 barrels of beer, Reames said his goal is to hold as many as 90,000.

He said the support from the community and surrounding towns has been incredible, and was another reason for locating in Lynn.

“For me, that was the most important thing,” he said. “I’m incredibly thankful.”

Dillon Durst can be reached at ddurst@itemlive.com.

Coping with loss through sports

Pete Pedro talks about how sports have helped him through a difficult time. 


LYNN — Resting on the flue of his wood-burning stove is a sheet-metal rendering of a pistol, with the name “Pete Pedro” under it.

“Pistol” Pete Pedro” became his nickname as he created a legacy for himself as one of the city’s Top 10 athletes of all time at Lynn Trade, now Lynn Vocational Technical Institute.

“You know who gave me that nickname?” Pedro asked. “(Former Item executive sports editor) Red Hoffman, back in the 1950s.”

That legacy and moniker has ensured his enduring popularity here. Pedro, a Lynn native, said he is grateful at how well he has been served by his athletic past. That was never made clearer to him than last year. At the time, his son, Anthony “Ricky” Pedro, died at 47, just hours after he’d talked to his mother and Pedro’s wife, Gloria, on the telephone.

On Saturday, Pedro quietly explained the nightmare of learning about his son’s sudden turn for the worse, which occurred last November. His voice grew even softer as he described how his family gathered at Union Hospital and were told that doctors couldn’t stop the internal bleeding that caused his son’s death. Five minutes after the family visited him to say their goodbyes, he was gone.

“The Pedro family has been blessed,”he said. “We have wonderful friends, all throughout Lynn, and all those friends, from all walks of life, were there for us. You should have seen our house. There were so many flowers. And the food? You could have fed a football team with all the food.”

But what really helped Pedro cope with the tragedy were his grandchildren, especially Ricky’s sons, Eric and Stephen. Eric played for the Division 1 state finalist boys’ hockey team, and scored a goal in last week’s championship game against Franklin. Also, Alex Pedro, son of Peter Pedro Jr., swims for Lynn Classical. While Pedro has always attended their various games and meets, they took on added significance last winter. Pedro was convinced he felt his son’s presence at Eric’s hockey games.

“I’d swear Ricky was watching over him,” Pedro said. “I know he was. Ricky used to talk about him all the time — his hockey. I know Ricky would have been so proud of him. Both (Eric and Stephen) have done well. But both miss their father very much.”

Pedro cannot say enough about the support he received from St. Mary’s staff, from the administration to the janitors.

“Everybody, from the principal, to the teachers, custodians … honest to God, they have been wonderful,” he said.

As has his son-in-law, Dave Brown, St. Mary’s boys’ basketball coach. Brown’s basketball team went all the way in Division 4, beating Maynard, 61-52, earlier this month in the title game at Springfield College. Pedro went along for that ride too.

“David has been wonderful to me since he started coaching,” Pedro said. “He comes and picks me up and brings me to the school. I ride the bus to and from the road games. I work setting up the concession stand for the home games.”

One of the nice aspects about growing up in Lynn is how many people rallied to his side when his son died, Pedro said.

“There are so many caring people,” he said. “And all the people who come up to tell you they’re sorry, it makes you feel good. It’s important to know that people care as much as they do.”