An “underperforming” natural-food sister store to supermarket chain King Kullen closed last week in West Islip, affecting at least 44 employees.
The Wild by Nature grocery store closed May 18 after nine years of operation, Lloyd Singer, spokesman for King Kullen Grocery Co. Inc., said in a statement.
“This had become an underperforming store, resulting in the difficult decision to close. It was an honor to serve the West Islip community for the past nine years,” Singer said.
The 22,000-square-foot full-service grocery store in West Islip was at 478A Union Blvd. in Captree Village, a shopping center owned by Delilah Realty Co. LLC.
Store employees were offered positions at other Wild by Nature stores or at King Kullen supermarkets, he said.
Hauppauge-based King Kullen Grocery Co. has 31 stores, all on Long Island, including 27 King Kullen supermarkets. The company’s four remaining Wild by Nature stores are in East Setauket, Hampton Bays, Huntington and Oceanside.
The company does not disclose its employee numbers, including the number of people who worked at Wild by Nature in West Islip.
But most of the company’s employees belong to a union, United Food and Commercial Workers, which provided some information.
UFCW Local 1500 had about 40 members in the West Islip store working in produce, deli, bakery, grocery, dairy, frozen foods, cashier lanes, customer service/bookkeeping and receiving, said Robert Newell, president of the Westbury-based local.
Also, UFCW Local 342 in Mineola represents four people who worked in the meat and seafood departments at the West Islip store, said Keeley Lampo, director of activities and communications for Local 342. The union does not represent managers, assistant managers or security personnel.
If any employees are unable to be transferred to a Wild by Nature or King Kullen store, “the local unions can and will absolutely facilitate additional employment opportunities in our other local stores,” Newell said.
King Kullen is the largest family-owned supermarket chain left on Long Island. There are about 2,435 unionized employees at King Kullen and Wild by Nature stores, according to UFCW locals.
Focusing on natural and organic food, Wild by Nature is a niche retailer that was challenged in West Islip by a nearby Stop & Shop supermarket that was pulling in more customers, said Kenneth R. Schuckman, president of Schuckman Realty, the Rockville Centre-based firm that markets and oversees leasing for Captree Village.
That Stop & Shop is a 5-minute walk away at 400 Union Blvd.
The owner of Captree Village would like to replace Wild by Nature with another grocery store, possibly a discounter, Schuckman said.
“The discount-branded supermarkets are the ones that are not afraid of Stop & Shop. That’s what we feel is the direction that this will go in,” he said.