A steady stream of traffic poured in and out of the new Fairway Sunday, a few days after the market opened to great fanfare in the Douglaston Shopping Plaza.
Customers with shopping carts filled to the brim with the store’s famed fare rode the elevator to the upper level parking lot where drivers searched chaotically for that prized empty spot.
The packed site has not changed since crowds braved the rain to be the first to enter the new supermarket.
The shopping center and the surrounding streets were jammed last week as shoppers from all over the city flocked to be one of the first to walk through the 56,000-square-foot store, at 242-02 61st Ave.
The Nov. 16 opening was so big that traffic on the eastbound side of Douglaston Parkway was brought to a virtual standstill and that car deluge continued in the parking lot, where a couple of customers got into fender-benders trying to get a spot.
Michael Burke, 25, of Flushing, was first on the line to enter the store before it officially opened around 11 a.m. and said that its reputation attracted him.
“The other stores near me don’t really have good food,” he said while waiting with his 2-year-old son Liam. “I’m going to get some salmon and some milk for him.”
A who’s who of political leaders — including the mayor, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside), City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz — were in attendance and applauded the chain for giving northeast Queens a commercial boost.
The Manhattan-based supermarket, which has locations in Brooklyn and Stamford, Conn., and on Long Island, hired more than 450 jobs and gave the community an option for food after Waldbaum’s closed a store in the plaza.
“I think it’s an example of what’s going on in the city,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “They’re willing to open, they’re willing to expand and willing to hire.”
Nathan Glickberg created Fairway as a fruit and vegetable stand in 1933 and 21 years later opened the first supermarket store on the Upper West Side. In 1974, his grandson Howie inherited the store and decided to take his family business to other areas in the city.
The stores grew in popularity due their large selection of items from around the world. The Douglaston store has more than 600 artisanal cheeses, unfiltered cooking oils, a kosher selection and produce, all from locations such as Italy, Australia and Portugal.
“When you walk through the aisles, you will see foodstuffs you’ve never seen before,” Dan Glickberg, Howie’s son and Fairway’s executive vice president, said.
The store also comes stocked with an eat-in deli complete with freshly baked goods. Sheri Hunt, 51, of Forest Hills has been shopping at Fairway supermarkets ever since it opened and said she was glad she did not have to travel as far as Long Island or Connecticut to get the food and service she enjoys.
Hunt said she was impressed with Fairway’s layout that divides its aisles into small alcoves of products.
“They were very creative here. [The alcoves] are angled well in a way that draws you in,” the self-proclaimed Fairway groupie said.
Community leaders said the road to Fairway’s move to Queens was long but paid off. After Waldbaum’s announced that it was not going to renew its lease at the shopping center and move out in 2010, Community Board 11 pushed for a new supermarket to fill its void.
CB 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece said the board was opposed to any other vendor that would take the place of Waldbaum’s, including a proposed Best Buy.
“We didn’t need TV sets here, we needed a supermarket,” he said.
After months of work with the community, the Queens borough president’s office and other city agencies, Fairway got the approval to expand into Douglaston and began work on reconstructing the Waldbaum’s site back in the spring.
The owners said it was an honor to extend their store into Queens and welcomed customers to continue their family legacy.
“Look at my father’s and grandfather’s picture on the wall,” Howie Glickberg said. “They would be proud of this.”
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@c