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Why Douglaston Market closed mystifies shoppers

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The steel gates outside the Douglaston Market have been shuttered for about a week now, and the mysterious departure of one of the area’s few fresh food markets has members of the community scratching their heads and speculating.

Neighboring businesses said the storefront, at 40-39 235th St., has been closed since June 1 with no word from owner Diego von Schmeling.

On April 19, the city Department of Health closed the market after an inspection yielded 78 violation points. Some of the critical violations included failure to store cold food items at the proper temperature, evidence of mice and inadequate hand-washing facilities, according to the DOH website.

Seven days later, the DOH reopened the store after the major violations were remedied. As of April 26, the establishment had six violation points with its inspection grade pending, says the department’s website.

The website also shows the market had a sanitary violation for improper plumbing. According to the city Department of Building’s website, the department received a complaint Saturday about after-hours construction taking place at the market, which has no work permits.

DOB has placed a stop-work order on the property, and the community has been left to speculate over what plans von Schmeling has for the establishment.

Tip Sempliner, a cartoonist for the TimesLedger Newspapers and a Douglaston resident, said von Schmeling had expressed restlessness with his position as the proprietor, and that in recent years family members and then employees had taken more responsibility running the market.

At this week’s Community Board 11 meeting, Chairman Jerry Iannece said that as far as he knew, von Schmeling had a 10-year lease on the building and did not have plans to go anywhere.

Food choices in the Little Neck-Douglaston area have been scant since the Waldbaums, at 242-02 61st Ave., closed down a few years ago.

“People have to drive to either the Stop & Shop on Northern Boulevard or the Waldbaums on Francis Lewis,” said CB 11 District Manager Susan Seinfeld. “Some people even drive over into Nassau [County].”

Residents have eagerly awaited the opening of a Fairway Market at the location of the old Waldbaums, and Senior Vice President Dan Glickberg said the company is scheduling the opening for the fall.

“It has everything you would expect from a Fairway. It will be a hybrid market with the best of a specialty organic and traditional grocery shop, such as Waldbaums or ShopRite,” he said.

Glickberg said the company is adding 15,000 square feet to the current building to accommodate seafood, baking and fresh produce areas. An elevator is also being installed to access the parking lot on the second floor.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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