Some regular shoppers at the Best Markets in Hicksville and West Islip never noticed that the supermarkets closed for good.
That’s because the family that bought the stores’ inventory, equipment and leases opened the grocery stores, under the name of Best Farms, just one day after they ceased operating as Best Markets, said Beatriz Fraschilla, vice president of Frasch Foods Inc., the company that she and her family formed to operate Best Farms stores.
"Mostly because it’s really hard to get that customer again once they go somewhere else," she said.
Beatriz Fraschilla and her three adult sons — Richard Jr., Michael and Patrick — opened the Best Farms in West Islip on Feb. 19. They opened the one in Hicksville in September 2019.
Plans for stores
"We have big plans of hopefully renovating both stores and just making them a great place for the neighborhood to shop," said Beatriz Fraschilla, 50, of Glen Cove.
The renovations would include new floors, lighting, signs and refrigerators and bringing back the fish department, she said.
Best Market was founded by the Raitses family in Lake Ronkonkoma in 1994, when the company's first supermarket opened as Produce Warehouse.
German discount grocer Lidl bought 27 Best Market stores in New Jersey and New York, including all 24 on Long Island, from Bethpage-based Best Yet Market Inc. in 2019 and is converting most of them to Lidl stores.
The Best Markets in West Islip, at 9 Udall Rd., and Hicksville, at 434 Jerusalem Ave., were among a few stores that Lidl announced would be permanently closed, so the Fraschillas seized the opportunity to operate their own stores in those spaces, Fraschilla said.
The family retained about half the Best Market employees from the closed stores to work in their two Best Farms, which now employ a total of about 60 people, she said.
The Fraschillas had experience in the grocery business before they opened Best Farms, said Fraschilla, a former project manager at a manufacturing company in Melville.
The family owned the Metro Fresh Supermarket in Mount Vernon, in Westchester, from 2012 to 2015.
Also, Fraschilla’s husband, Richard Sr., has 37 years of experience in the grocery business, including his current job as chief operating officer of retail at Western Beef Supermarkets, a chain of 20 discount stores, most of which are in the New York City area. There are four Western Beef stores on Long Island.
Richard Sr. offers business advice to his wife and sons in their grocery venture and is the president of Frasch Foods, but he is not involved in the day-to-day operations of the company’s stores, Beatriz Fraschilla said.
The Best Farms supermarkets are full-service supermarkets with meat, deli, bakery and fresh produce departments, along with grocery products.
For the Best Farms in Hicksville, Frasch Foods leased 20,000 square feet — 10,000 square feet of ground floor space for the store and 10,000 square feet in the basement for storage, according to the landlord, Muss Development LLC, a Queens-based real estate company.
Elias Properties Management Inc. in Jericho owns the West Islip shopping center where Best Farms has a 12,000-square-foot store. Elias did not respond to Newsday’s requests for comment.
Sales at Best Farms have been strong, in part because of the boom in business amid the COVID-19 pandemic that allowed grocery stores and other essential businesses to remain open while most other retailers were closed for several months, starting last March, Fraschilla said.
"We definitely did more business than we had anticipated. It [also] was probably the most difficult year of our lives," she said.
Not only was it challenging to keep staff at Best Farms, but the new business encountered difficulty getting inventory because truckers weren’t delivering, she said. Also, after wholesale meat prices increased, Best Farms raised its prices, which resulted in some customer complaints, she said.
Because of the pandemic, many elderly customers are afraid to leave their homes, so Fraschilla and her sons are making home deliveries, she said.
Overall, Best Farms has been well received by former Best Market customers — if they even notice the stores have changed, she said.