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Joseph E. Fernandes papers

This is an online exhibit that focuses on the life of Joseph Fernandes and the generational impact his chain of grocery stores had.


After the sale of the grocery chain, Mr. Fernandes turned his attention to the burgeoning ethnic media market. 

He was a co-founder, and subsequent president, of the following media outlets: 

  • The Portuguese Times. He was not only the president of the shareholders, but was a key figure in relocating the newspaper from New Jersey (where it started) to New Bedford upon the cessation of publication by the Diario de Noticias in 1974.  
  • Panorama of Portugal Cable TV (Chanel 20). Originally a Portuguese-language variety show hosted by Antonio Costa on WTEV-TV, iated a daily TV cable program ``Panorama of Portugal,, he worked with Costa to make the variety show into a daily TV cable program, that would be the predecessor to what is now known The Portuguese Chanel (New Bedford and Fall River, MA). The newspaper and cable channel were managed under the same business umbrella.
  • Radio station WISE (Providence, RI). Mr. Fernandes and his co-owner, Antonio Costa (who was a Portuguese-language radio pioneer in the US), owned WISE for a number of years in the 1980s. In 1986 they sold the station to Neto Broadcasting, who would change the broadcast from Portuguese language programs, to programming that targeted the Hispanic population. 

Mr. Fernandes was not only proud of the work he did for the Portuguese community via his participation in television, radio and newspapers, he was also aware of the financial gain that could be had. Jay Fernandes (is son) reported that "...his father had him invest $2,000 in an area cable franchise when it was starting up. Five years later it was worth $250,000"  "Fernandes founder dies at 84", The Sun Chronicle, August 22, 2007

One of the programs that Mr. Fernandes was involved in producing was "Portuguese Around Us" under the auspices of the Portuguese-American  Federation, Inc., an institution he was a long-term member of, and president of throughout the 1990s.The English language weekly program, was broadcast from the 1970s until 2000s. An almost complete run of the program is available in the Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese-American Archives

Marcia reminds us:

The media business, like the supermarket business, evolved and faced new forms of competition.  What was once a viable business shrank over the years.  


Real Estate

Thanks, in part, to a newspaper article published in the Sunday Enterprise in 1988, we have been able to piece together some of the history of Mr. Fernandes real estate holdings.

Prior to the sale of the grocery chain in 1979, the company had a real estate subsidiary, Fernandes Realty Corporation, under which the store properties were managed. During this period, we know that the holdings included at least three shopping centers, two of them being:

  • Brockton  East Shopping Plaza (22 stores)
  • Walpole Plaza (eight stores) 

After the sale of the grocery store business, Fernandes Realty Corporation became its own entity, and it managed 23 shopping centers in 18 communities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The holdings were liquidated in 1986, Mr. Fernandes is quoted as saying: "Everyone was going into malls, so we either had to change with the times or sell." They sold. 

Marcia provided some thoughts and remembrances about her father's real estate prowess: 

He would build strip malls and place the supermarket as the anchor store. He went on to say he made more money in real estate than he ever did in the supermarket business. He also told me when he was older that upon reflection, the same thing that made the business a success in the beginning, a family business run by himself, his sisters and their husbands:  Tony Pires (married to oldest sister Bemvinda), Michael Murphy (married to a younger sister Mary) and Joe Fonseca (married to the youngest Evangeline), contributed to the downfall. As their children also began to occupy management positions, the other professionals working at headquarters saw no potential for growth and moved on. As well, he began to become more interested in politics and other pursuits and said he felt he had taken his eye off of the business which was becoming more competitive and evolving into different retail formats.  One can never take success for granted.  Soon large sophisticated corporate chains began building stores to compete with his stores.  It was said that my Dad was talented at picking good locations for his stores.  He told me one large chain told him they would like to buy his chain, they liked many of his locations.  He said he wasn't interested, then they told him... well, we'll just build our own stores and put you out of business.  He was once an innovator in the field of supermarkets by adding different departments; for example, an in-store bakery, a snack bar, and a private label brand "Staff".  He was recognized by supermarket organizations both nationally and internationally for his advancement of supermarkets.  He also was involved with the final selection of the UPC code developed by Sensormatic.


Below are some newspapers (all courtesy of Marcia Fernandes) that document the sale of the real estate companies in 1986. 

Changing Careers

Diversified Portfolio

Mr. Fernandes believed in having a diversified business portfolio, however, it is quite difficult to ascertain exactly how far his business ventures reached. As an example, we know that in addition to being the founder and president of Fernandes Super Markets, Inc. (a position he held for the majority of the time the chain existed), he also created Fernandes Realty Corp., Fernandes Twin-City Realty Corp., and Big Joe's Steak House. 

Below is some information on his business ventures outside of the grocery store chain, including his dedication to Portuguese media after the sale of the business. 


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Claire T. Carney Library
Room 237
285 Old Westport Road
Dartmouth, MA 02747