S.O.S.! Save Our Supermarket
by Holly Tsang
Feb 10, 2009 | 783 views | 0 0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Food Dynasty's reign as the sole supermarket serving a Queens Village neighborhood may soon come to an end. The owner of the property at 220-46 Hillside Avenue has indicated he may not renew the supermarket's lease, which expires at the end of February.

The same space has been occupied by a supermarket for over 50 years. Although the store changed names and management many times, Queens Villagers always had a place to go for fresh food products. The supermarket's future now hangs in the balance.

Outraged residents caught in between the classic tenant-landlord squabble banded together to put pressure on the negotiations. A rally held outside the supermarket last Saturday was epitomized by the slogan, "S.O.S.! Save Our Supermarket!" which the crowd shouted in front of the store.

The rally was organized by Bobby Sher, president of Bell Park Manor Terrace Co-op, which is home to over 800 families, and Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village and City Council candidate. State Senator Frank Padavan and Assemblyman Mark Weprin were also on hand to lend their support.

The neighborhood is home to a significant number of senior citizens, many of whom don't drive. After Food Dynasty, the nearest supermarkets are at least two miles away.

"I need this store because if I buy a bottle of bleach [elsewhere], I can't walk home," says Shirley Frank, who lives less than half a block away from Food Dynasty.

Frank, 80, recently had knee surgery and is experiencing difficulty walking. If the supermarket closes, she will have to rely on a van from the senior center, which makes weekly trips to Stop & Shop, to get the food items she needs. Shoppers are only given an hour to get a week's worth of groceries, and as she points out, milk doesn't last a whole week.

Mary Sullivan is an elementary school teacher with two-year-old and ten-month-old children. As the one who primarily does the food shopping for her family, she usually does not bring the kids, but she and her husband share a vehicle. If Food Dynasty closes, she will have to wait until her husband gets home with the car before she goes out for groceries while juggling the responsibilities of work and two small children.

Multiple references were made to a similar situation in which a Waldbaum's in the Douglaston Plaza Shopping Center faced being shut down and replaced with a Best Buy. The community rallied against the change, and plans were made for the supermarket to be replaced by a bigger and better one.

An electronics store such as the one that threatened to replace the supermarket at Douglaston Plaza will be most unwelcome in this neighborhood.

"We will be out here every single day, protesting and vigorously opposing any other usage of this space except for a supermarket," promised Friedrich.

Padavan says that if it's not this supermarket, then another will do so long as the space remains a devoted to grocery shopping.

Linda Goitsch, who has lived in the neighborhood for nearly 48 years, sees the supermarket as more than just a place to buy groceries - it's a community gathering place where people see their friends and catch up while out running errands.

Frank also enjoys the social element of going to the supermarket, where she meets a lot of "little ladies" who haven't passed on, moved to Florida, or require assisted living.

Aside from the local customers, there is another group, though much smaller, that stands to lose something if Food Dynasty closes: the supermarket employees. There are roughly 50 jobs at stake, says Rhonda Nelson, a representative for the Queens Village chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW).

"No one in this economy in these days can afford to lose a job," says Nelson.

Nelson says that there have been instances in which UFCW has been successful in getting management to sit down with landlords and work out terms to keep a store open.

According to Weprin, the two parties have begun renegotiating, and the supermarket management called to say that things were progressing along.

The unions and politicians can add pressure, but ultimately, the decision comes down to the management and the landlord.

"We're just going to stay on top of this, follow up the best we can, and see that it comes out right," says Padavan.

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