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Home Depot celebrates first store in SE Queens

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Home Depot was set to celebrate the grand opening of its first home improvement retail center in southeast Queens Wednesday, an event that has drawn a mixed reaction from community leaders.

“I think it has a twofold impact,” state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) said of the Home Depot scheduled to open at 132-20 Merrick Blvd. in Springfield Gardens.

The international hardware chain joins five other locations in Queens in South Ozone Park, Flushing, Glendale, Long Island City and College Point.

“The positive impact is it spurs the disposable income that makes southeast Queens an interesting location to business chains,” Smith said.

On the other hand, two local businesses, Metropolitan Lumber and Hardware on Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica and Preferred Lumber Materials Corporation on Springfield Boulevard in Springfield Gardens, could lose customers after the megastore opens, Smith said.

Robert Sanders, who works at Preferred Lumber, said the Home Depot would be bad for his business but good for the community.

“It will be detrimental to a young, minority-owned business that has been in the neighborhood since 1972,” Sanders said of his store. “It will just about run us out of business.”

Sanders said Preferred Lumber cannot match Home Depot’s prices because the superstore buys stock in larger quantities and gets better deals.

Home Depot is the world’s largest home improvement store and the third-largest retailer in the United States. The Springfield Gardens location is a 140,000-square-foot retail outlet, including a garden center and tool rental center.

The superstore was set to celebrate the grand opening at 6 p.m. Wednesday and to be open to the public Thursday, Aug. 16, at 5 a.m. The Merrick Boulevard store will be open from 5 a.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.

Home Depot officials said they will employ more than 250 people at the new store, which is good for the community, Sanders said, even though he thinks the home improvement supplier is not needed in the neighborhood.

There is a Home Depot on Rockaway Boulevard in South Ozone Park and two others just across the Long Island border in Valley Stream’s Green Acres Mall and on Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont, he stressed.

“That’s close enough,” Sanders said, adding he would rather see a food store or a medical supplies shop than another hardware store.

Up the road in Jamaica, another project is underway on Merrick Boulevard, where the Allen A.M.E. church recently broke ground on a senior citizens’ residence.

The Rev. Floyd Flake, pastor of Allen A.M.E. and former congressman from St. Albans, said both the senior residence and the Home Depot are signs of southeast Queens’ redevelopment.

“We want people to be able to go from Jamaica to Nassau and not want to move to Nassau,” Flake said of the Merrick Boulevard strip.

Smith said southeast Queens is already a prosperous neighborhood. The fact that superstores such as Home Depot are moving in shows it is a desirable business location, he said.

“The area is going through a boom,” Smith said. “Now it is manifesting itself.”

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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