It was a doubly happy anniversary celebration at the Key Food located at 991 Fulton Street last Friday, December 5 because not only was the family-owned business marking its 50th year in Clinton Hill, but it was also starting its first year with the Key Food name.
Formerly known as Met Foods, the supermarket has been something of a community landmark since it opened in 1964, valued by residents for its affordable prices on a wide range of fresh food and for its practice of hiring youth from the community — including famous rapper Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace — to work the cashiers and bag groceries.
“We were here when the neighborhood was poor because otherwise, how is the neighborhood going to grow,” asked Frank Widdi, who, along with his brother Wakeem, is part of the second generation of the Widdi family to run the store.
“We brought what people requested over the years: healthy food, diet foods, now organic foods,” said Frank. “This is where [our family] started. It’s like our first love.”
Long-time employees like Orlando Torres agreed, describing the market as “like a family” and someplace where “the owners treat people very nicely. Customers, too. People are nice and honest.”
Torres and coworker Bobby Neal have each worked at the market for over 30 years. “You can talk to the Widdis if you have a problem,” said Neal. “Once, my apartment burned down twice and they helped me find a new home.”
That type of community support is also why William Frazier said he has shopped here since 1972.
“Wakeem’s always a personable guy and very community-oriented, supporting churches and local organizations, and supporting elections and putting up posters for community events,” said Frazier.
The new name of Key Food, Frazier added, won’t make a bit of difference, either, because “it doesn’t matter what the name is — it’s who the owner is.
“Many Met Foods stores closed, but [the Widdis] chose to stay in business and continue to serve our community at affordable prices that are, in some cases, much better than Pathmark. Customer service here is genuine,” he said. “It’s like a big mom-and-pop store. I hope that when Wakeem is no longer on the scene, the family will still be around.”