Today’s news:

Stop & Shop weighs opening store in Little Neck

After a year without a major supermarket in the neighborhood, about 300 residents of Little Neck and Douglaston turned out Tuesday night for a presentation from the Boston-based Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. on its possible involvement with the former Grand Union site.

Organized by the Little Neck Pines Civic Association, the meeting at the Community Church of Little Neck attracted a large crowd who spent an hour listening to and asking questions of Stop & Shop representative Jim Sylvia, the vice president of real estate for the company’s New York metro division.

Sylvia insisted the company was taking a serious approach to the issue and urged the public to comply with its request for more information about the community’s needs by filling out a questionnaire on what they would like to see in a new supermarket at the Grand Union site.

The Grand Union on the corner of Northern Boulevard and Marathon Parkway in Little Neck closed in October 2000 after a bankruptcy-burdened Grand Union sold the property to a Manhasset realtor. The large property has sat vacant ever since.

While Stop & Shop took over a majority of the Grand Union locations when it went bankrupt last year, Sylvia said the Little Neck location was sold before the deal with Stop & Shop was finalized.

The virtual abandonment of the Little Neck Grand Union has left residents in Little Neck, Douglaston and Douglas Manor north of the Long Island Expressway without a local supermarket.

“We have been trying very hard to find out the optimal thing to do” with the Grand Union site, Sylvia said.

Sylvia said Stop & Shop has been working with Fred Colin, the Manhasset realtor who bought the property from Grand Union. Sylvia said the company reached an agreement with Colin that gives Stop & Shop the time to study the financial investment entailed in opening a new supermarket, but he stopped short of saying Stop & Shop had leased or bought the site.

“We’re doing this with as much research and analysis as we possibly can,” he said. “The challenges for this site are many.”

Sylvia said the small, 20,000-square-foot property has a unique two-story layout with storage on the second floor that would require Stop & Shop to come up with a store design new to the company. The rundown condition of the building would also require Stop & Shop to “completely gut” the structure and reconstruct the interior if it were to come in, Sylvia said.

As residents asked about how much the company would spend on the property, whether a new Stop & Shop was a done deal and if the company would acquire any surrounding properties to expand parking, Sylvia said no such decisions were imminent.

“Senior management in my company has seen this location,” Sylvia assured the audience. “We have driven through the neighborhood. We are really working hard to make [this site] make sense for us.”

In the past several months the Little Neck Pines Association has spearheaded a letter-writing campaign to court Stop & Shop’s interest in the Grand Union property and urge the company to explore its options there. Sylvia thanked the community for its outreach.

“We’ve received letters from at least twice as many people as there are here tonight,” he said.

Sylvia said Stop & Shop was considering two main options for a new store layout if it opens a supermarket at the Grand Union site: one which utilized only the first floor for merchandise or one that used both floors for merchandise with escalators to allow customers easy access.

Stop & Shop cannot reach a decision or proceed with its studies without community input, Sylvia said, encouraging the crowd to return the questionnaire.

For a copy of the Stop & Shop questionnaire, call the company at 617-770-6041, or go to www.littleneckpines.org.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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