Sunnyside grocery store to close after lease dispute

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On Thursday, December 6, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and Foodtown workers rallied against the closure of the neighborhood grocery store.PHOTO COURTESY OF COUNCILMEMBER JIMMY VAN BRAMER
On Thursday, December 6, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and Foodtown workers rallied against the closure of the neighborhood grocery store.

After 28 years, Suzy Szabo will no longer work at her neighborhood grocery store. The five-minute walk from her Sunnyside home to her job at the local Foodtown on Greenpoint Avenue will become a nearly 90 minute commute on two trains across two boroughs.

In two weeks, the store will be emptied, its merchandise sold and its employees dispersed to other Foodtown locations in Brooklyn and the Bronx. According to Foodtown employees and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, the building’s landlord refused to enter lease negotiations for the upcoming term and the business will be ousted from the premises at the end of this year. The building’s landlord could not be reached.

“We were like a family over here,” said Szabo, the store’s deli manager. “We laughed. We cried together. We were like a family and the customers loved us too.”

Van Bramer, who lives in the neighborhood, said the supermarket acts as an anchor of the community. “A supermarket is more than just a place that sells bread and milk,” said Van Bramer.“It becomes a center of community because it’s a place that everyone goes to. They fall in love with the staff. They rely on them.”

According to Van Bramer, the supermarket owners, Noah and Danny Katz, offered to pay more money and even buy the building in order to stay in their Sunnyside location.

“This is not the case where they couldn’t afford their rent. They were making money,” said Van Bramer. “In this case, we have a property owner who has pushed out a very successful supermarket. We are legitimately frustrated and angry with this property owner who is doing a disservice to the people of Sunnyside.”

Foodtown manager Allen Hyusyan speculated the landlord aimed to receive a tax write-off for owning vacant property.

“It’s a mystery to us,” said Hyusyan. “He just doesn’t want us there. He wants to gut the place from shelving to refrigerating. He wants everything out.”