Super-anxiety about closing of Sixth Ave. supermarket

BY ELISSA STEIN  |  The windows sport “Store Closing” signs. Almost every aisle has empty shelves. A countdown of how many days are left greets patrons as they enter the front door.

Anxious conversations are occurring in supermarket aisles, at the cash registers, on sidewalk corners, in building lobbies, and at school pickups, colored with shock, disappointment, anger and frustration.

“Where will I go for basics?” is the most frequently heard concern.

In the past few years, local supermarkets have been closing and haven’t been replaced with anything comparable. The former Gristedes space on 14th St. is now a discount mart. What was once D’Agostino on University Place is the upscale Agata & Valentina. And the former Sixth Ave. storefront of Jefferson Market, another longtime neighborhood staple, remains empty.

Now, as first reported two weeks ago in The Villager, the Food Emporium, on Sixth Ave. at 12th St., is slated to close its doors, in early May.

With each closing, shoppers have faced an increasing challenge on where to find basics without having to leave the neighborhood. While some mention Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods as alternatives, they’re not. Not that there isn’t a place for an olive bar and fair-trade cocoa. But people also want the option of buying half-sour pickles and Swiss Miss — not to mention Jell-O, Brillo and Ore-Ida fries, Reynolds Wrap and garbage bags — without having to board a bus.

It’s particularly an issue for the elderly. One local resident knew of people in her building who visited the Food Emporium three times a day, since they couldn’t carry all their purchases in one trip. For such senior Villagers, traveling to more expensive stores is prohibitive, due to both the distance and cost.

And what about when the Rudin residential redevelopment project at the former St. Vincent’s brings in hundreds of new apartments?

Some have already noted an increase in their buildings’ FreshDirect deliveries. While that might be convenient for some, added deliveries will further back up already congested streets and sidewalks.

The thought of yet another drugstore in an area congested with drugstores has residents writing to local politicians, planning boycotts of Food Emporium’s new tenant and signing petitions protesting the change. Between the Rite Aid, Ricky’s, Ansonia and Bigelow’s on Sixth Ave., and the two Duane Reades on Seventh Ave., one wonders if companies think Villagers have an insatiable appetite for drugstores.

This supermarket closing is about a cash-poor parent company and a valuable location, but the bigger reality is the Village is changing. Real estate prices continue to rise and many local businesses can no longer survive. No matter how frequently we patronize our favorite shops, in the end, changing neighborhood demographics will continue to shape how we shop and live in the future.

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5 Responses to Super-anxiety about closing of Sixth Ave. supermarket

  1. Jon Lichtenstein

    If Catsimatidis wants our vote for Mayor, he should start by opening a Gristede's in the neighborhood and hire Food Emporium's workers, union scale or not.

  2. There's a Gristedes on West 4th, just east of Seventh Ave, and it's awful. Prices are laughably high, confusing and hard to navigate layout, no-so-appetizing appetizing department. It's no alternative… Fresh Direct is heaven compared to this Gristedes, and believe it or not the prices are way lower at Citarella! Such a shame what's happening here…

  3. Ricky's can hardly be considered a drug store. And while they are not traditional grocery stores, Citarella and LifeThyme–both only a few blocks from Food Emporium–were not even mentioned. I agree that the closing of Food Emporium is a problem, but not even mentioning what alternatives are indeed close by is an oversight in this story.

  4. Western Beef on 62nd and West End Ave. Best prices in Manhattan. Good variety as well. Carlos the manager is a great guy. Worth the trip.

  5. I have lived on w. 8th street for nearly 40 years and I have lost my diners, deli's, supermarkets, book store, hair cutter, and my wonderful Hong Wah laundromat across the street that burned down 2 months ago without replacement.
    Where are we to shop? Were are we to find the food basics that are slowly being taken away from us?
    I just ran out for a small bag of flour, going to what was left of the Food Emporium where i shared tears and memories with staff. Why is this happening and what are we to do?

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