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Flushing residents rally to keep Key Food open

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The rumored closing of the Key Food supermarket in Flushing would be a serious blow to the many seniors and single mothers who rely on the grocery store that has been a staple in the community for more than 40 years, according to residents who rallied Saturday for the business to remain open.

“If Key Food closes, the nearest grocery store is four blocks, which is too far for many of our elderly residents,” said Sherell M. Jordan, founder and executive director of Sista’s in the Hood Outreach Ministries, who organized Saturday’s protest. “We need this for the elderly and the single moms, like myself, who come here because the pricing is equitable for us. The other stores have higher prices, which, in this economy, makes a difference.”

Sista’s in the Hood Outreach Ministries is a Flushing-based nonprofit that works with single mothers in Queens.

Dozens of residents and elected officials, including state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) and state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing), attended Saturday’s gathering outside the store located at 142-41 Roosevelt Avenue.

Stavisky said she recently spoke with Key Food owner Richard Grobman, who told her he has to sell the Key Food in Flushing because “he’s not making any money.” Key Food did not return requests for comment.

Stavisky noted she expects Grobman to work with the community as he moves to sell the store. It was not known when the store was expected to close and a spokesman for Key Food told TimesLedger Newspapers last week there was “no deal to close the store.”

“We have to make sure whoever moves in has a sufficient supply of American items so people here have a place to shop,” Stavisky said.

Mary Ann Boroz, a Flushing resident who organized a rally at Key Food last week and has gathered more than 1,369 signatures against shuttering the store, echoed Jordan’s concerns that many elderly residents would have a difficult time reaching other grocery stores that could prove too far out of reach for people in wheelchairs or who have difficulty walking.

“I’ve been here since 1962 and have been shopping here since then,” said Janie Terry, 71. “We senior citizens need this place. We’d be too heart-broken if it closed. It’s too far to go to other grocery stores.”

There are “thousands and thousands” of senior citizens who live within blocks of the Key Food store, according to Robert Salant, director of community relations at the Flushing House, a retirement residence that houses about 300 seniors.

“We’re very concerned because many of the residents use Key Food,” Salant said. “It’s close by, it’s convenient. If it closes I don’t know what they’re going to do. To ask residents who have to walk less than a block to Key Food to walk four more blocks is not good.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 5:48 pm, October 10, 2011
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