By Jano Tantongco
The owner of Southdown Marketplace, a local chain of grocery stores, is in talks to take over the lease of the recently defunct Waldbaum’s in Greenlawn Plaza. The deal would bring back a much-needed grocery store for nearby residents, including seniors at Paumanack Village.
The shuttering of Waldbaum’s last month is one of many cases that have left residents in the dust in the wake of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co.’s chapter 11 bankruptcy filing this past July.
Negotiations on selling the lease agreement are currently underway among Shanghai Enterprises, Southdown Marketplace and Federal Realty Investment Trust to sell the lease to Southdown, according to Lisa Geiger, marketing manager for Federal Realty Investment Trust, the landlord of Greenlawn Plaza.
Shanghai Enterprises acquired the lease and assets from A&P in October for $3.26 million, according to bankruptcy court documents.
Michael Zoitas, owner of Southdown Marketplace, envisions the new grocery as a roughly 20,000-square-foot store. The former Waldbaum’s spanned 45,958 square feet, according to the website of Federal Realty Investment Trust.
“Our goal is to open the soonest,” said Zoitas. “We have the flexibility on the space. Because the space is larger, we’re going to do it a bit bigger than we usually do.”
Zoitas is still working on developing a new name for the proposed grocery, but stated it would not be named “Southdown Marketplace.”
Considering the residents of Paumanack Village, Zoitas said he has plans to create programs that would assist them in their daily living. He has been considering implementing a delivery service and discounts for residents.
“They have limited disposable income. Some of them don’t drive,” he said. “There is a way, I just have to see how to achieve it.”
Zoitas and his family took over the Southdown Marketplace in Huntington in 1999. They established a second location in Northport over two years ago.
“We’re a local operation. We’ve been in Huntington for 15 years. It’s close to home,” he said. “We liked Greenlawn… it was a different deal from what Huntington and Northport are. We wanted to get a different type of shopper,” he added.
For Zoitas, the next step is examining how to make modifications to refit the space and shrink the store.
While details of the new store are being hammered out, earlier in the week, Charlie Reichert, the owner of the IGA supermarket in East Northport, agreed to reimburse HART bus fare of all village residents who shopped at the grocery.
“Within our capacities, we have made advancements and this kind gesture is another way we can ease the burden on the residents. This is what being a community is all about.” said Spencer. “I can’t thank Charlie and his family enough for stepping in to help during this time of need.”
Joyce A. Zucker, age 77, has been living at Paumanack Village for 20 years. She was in the audience when the reimbursement program from IGA supermarket was announced.
“I think it’s wonderful that these people are sharing with us and caring for us,” said Zucker. “But, we still need to have a supermarket in the vicinity. That’s the main thing.”
The bus travels between Paumanack Village and the supermarket twice a week for a $6 round-trip fare. But now, any senior from the village will have that fare deducted from their grocery bill.
Huntington Councilwoman Tracey Edwards noted that it has been unfortunate that so many local supermarkets have closed due to the A&P bankruptcy, but the Greenlawn closing has taken an especially difficult toll on the residents of Paumanack.
That community, because of the close proximity to Paumanack, they need those essential services,” said Edwards. “I think that they [Southdown Marketplace] will serve the needs of the community there, and we’re anxious to work with them to bring it to fruition.”