King Kullen is set to open a grocery store on Friday at the former Waldbaum’s in North Patchogue, which it bought for $2.5 million from the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co.
After a year-and-a-half hiatus from the Patchogue area, the 85-year-old family-owned and -run King Kullen, which prides itself on being America’s first supermarket, will return with an 8 a.m. “soft opening” of the renovated 50,000-square-foot store at 440 W. Sunrise Hwy. The grand opening of the store, which has been undergoing a face-lift since Nov. 20, will be on Dec. 11.
“We certainly feel that Patchogue is an important location for King Kullen,” company senior vice president Joseph Brown said. The new location replaces the King Kullen that was across the street; it closed after losing its lease. “We’ve had a couple of different stores in the area, and when this store became available it was one of the stores that we decided to bid on,” Brown said.OpinionReader essay: Loss of a supermarket cuts deepStoryBest Market to buy 5 more LI A&P storesStoryThousands worry as Waldbaum's, Pathmark vanish
Last month A&P, which is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, closed all of its 51 Waldbaum’s and Pathmark supermarkets on Long Island. So far, A&P has sold 33 of the stores, most of which have been bought by other supermarket chains.
Bethpage-based King Kullen bid on five locations but only won the bidding for North Patchogue, Brown said. Including the new store, there are 36 King Kullens on the Island, plus five locations of Wild by Nature, the company’s high-end grocery banner.
The supermarket chain employs more than 3,300 union employees. It hired 79 full- and part-time employees who worked in the former Waldbaum’s North Patchogue store, as well as 30 employees laid off from other A&P stores.
“We kept them at their current rate of pay and their current vacation accrued time,” Brown said. “We felt it was important to save their jobs. . . . They bring a value to us. They know the store, and they know the community.”
The new store seeks to cater to young professionals who have moved to Patchogue Village. It will sell store-baked artisanal baguettes, locally grown produce and ready-to-go dinners.
“There is definitely a focus on healthy and more nutritional food to try to appeal to people looking to eat a little healthier,” said Tracey Cullen, a fourth-generation member of the Cullen family and director of pricing and social media for King Kullen. “We are not taking away anything, we are just adding.”