With its shelves nearly bare and red clearance signs plastering its windows, the beloved neighborhood supermarket was eerily quiet today.
Waldbaums at 8121 New Utrecht Avenue — a casualty of A&P’s recent bankruptcy filing — was scheduled to be sold to Key Food along with 16 other stores this fall. However, complications arose during the negotiation process when it was discovered that a landlord owned two thirds of the New Utrecht Avenue store, while A&P owned the remaining third, reported Supermarket News.
So when another investor expressed interest in Waldbaums, A&P decided to pull the supermarket from the package, instead offering Key Food “super bid protection,” meaning it could acquire the remaining 16 locations without ever going to auction. It was “an opportunity of a lifetime,” according to Key Food CEO Dean Janeway.
The second offer on Waldbaums apparently didn’t pan out either, and with no buyer, the store is scheduled to close on November 19.
A spokesperson for A&P declined to comment, but the store is now expected to return to the auction.
In the meantime, things are looking rather bleak for Waldbaums’ 70 employees. The supermarket workers’ union Local 388 told Bensonhurst Bean that it has worked to negotiate comparable pay packages for employees at the other A&P stores that were sold to Key Food, but there is little it can do for Waldbaums until the company finds a buyer.
“What we’re doing is providing as many resources to anyone who is displaced during the process,” said Local 388 treasurer Joseph Fontano.
According to Fontano, this includes working with the city to set up resource fairs with recruiters, instruction on filling for unemployment, and resume writing workshops.
When we visited the store today, several dozen customers roamed the massive space, which had entire aisles cleared of food items, though some cans, spices, and dry goods — all heavily marked down in price — remained. The feeling was solemn and nostalgic as employees and customers bemoaned the loss of a 37-year neighborhood institution.
“I remember coming here as a child and the store was huge!” deli clerk Diana Winters told us. “Now it feels smaller.”
Winters, who says her coworkers have become like family, will lose her job on November 19 and be forced to go on unemployment.
Maria Elisa Suarez, 32, a deli clerk whose husband Abel who works the night shift, told us her family of five will lose two breadwinners as a result of the closure, but she is especially sad to say goodbye to her colleagues.
“It’s not even bittersweet, it’s just bitter,” said Suarez. “It was great working here. We were with great people and great friends. I didn’t mind coming to work every day. It was just a wonderful place to work. The customers were really nice; the manager was wonderful.”
For one employee, a 27-year veteran of Waldbaums who identified himself as Charlie, said he saw store’s closure is an opportunity to explore a new career path.
“It’s not good for a lot of people, but for me, it was the push I needed to move on in my life. I’m one of those people that I help everyone else before I help myself,” he said.
Customers also expressed dismay over the impending closure, observing that the area’s aging population relies heavily on the supermarket.