The new owner of the former Waldbaum’s location in Greenlawn has reached an agreement with a local specialty gourmet grocer to occupy part of the 40,000-square-foot space.
News of the deal has led a local food workers union to charge that the new owner maneuvered to avoid hiring laid-off union workers from the Waldbaum’s.
The prospective subtenant for half of the vacant space at Greenlawn Plaza is Southdown Marketplace, a family-owned nonunion operator of upscale grocery stores in Huntington and Northport. It plans to open a small, neighborhood market at the shopping center once anchored by the Waldbaum’s, which closed last month.
Southdown owner Michael Zoitas said the Greenlawn store, which may include a pharmacy, wouldn’t be called Southdown. Instead, the specialty food retailer is working on a new name and concept.
It will also look into having a discount program for residents living in nearby a senior housing complex. There is no set time to open the store, which would need to be renovated, Zoitas said.
Southdown’s other stores are smaller than the space in Greenlawn it’s taking. “This store will be a little bit bigger, and it will be a different set-up,” Zoitas said. The Huntington location is 7,000 square feet, and Northport is 10,000. “We look forward to opening. I want to make it easy for everyone to shop there.”
Shanghai Enterprises, a real estate developer based in Jamaica, Queens, purchased the lease for the Greenlawn Waldbaum’s for $3.26 million.
“Many details still need to be worked out, but the community should be happy,” Shanghai Enterprises attorney Theodore A. Stamas said. “It will be in line with what was there, but better and nicer. Not pricier.”
The closing of the Greenlawn Waldbaum’s had left more than 500 residents of Paumanack Village, a federally subsidized independent-living community for low-income seniors and people with disabilities, scrambling to find a way to buy their groceries.
“I am excited to hear there is potential for a supermarket there,” said Suffolk County Legis. William Spencer, who represents the area and has been pushing for a supermarket in the space. “My concern primarily is that whatever supermarket that goes in there, the pricing is affordable for those that are on limited income.”
Earlier this week, the owner of the nearby Larkfield IGA supermarket in East Northport said he would deduct the cost of a $6 round-trip bus ride from the grocery bills of the residents who shop at the supermarket. Many Paumanack residents don’t have cars and live on a fixed income.
Union officials, however, said they are ready to take legal action over the potential opening of the grocery store. They have argued that Shanghai Enterprises avoided hiring more than 60 union employees who worked at the Waldbaum’s store.
In October, a bankruptcy judge approved the sale of the store lease to Shanghai Enterprises after company representatives said they did not intend to operate a supermarket. Most supermarket operators that purchased locations from Waldbaum’s and Pathmark’s parent company, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., had agreed to hire some store union employees.
“We at Local 338 will be pursuing all legal options available to us in order to protect our members who were working in the Greenlawn location,” said Nikki Kateman, spokeswoman for Mineola-based United Food and Commercial Workers Local 338, which represented Waldbaum’s workers.
But Stamas said that Shanghai made it clear in court that opening a supermarket was not out of the question.
“We just thought that the best use was for a supermarket,” Stamas said. “Everybody wanted it there.”
Nearly 20,000 square feet of the vacant space is still available. A gym and a hardware store have expressed interest in the space, Stamas said.
“We are actively marketing the space,” said Jayson Siano, a principal of Garden City-based Sabre Real Estate Group, which is the broker for Greenlawn Plaza. “We are happy that we are able to service the community with another grocery store.”
A&P filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors in July. The company shut all its supermarkets by November, including 51 stores on Long Island. So far, 34 stores have been bought or bid on. Most have been bought by other supermarket chains. Five were closed in October, and 12 other store locations remain unsold.