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Key Food Vows to Build 'State-of-the-Art' Supermarket Alongside Walgreens

By Leslie Albrecht | February 22, 2013 8:17am

WINDSOR TERRACE — After months of despair and anger over the loss of the neighborhood's only grocery store, Windsor Terrace residents finally got a chance to smile Thursday night as Key Food officials unveiled plans for a supermarket to open alongside a new Walgreens.

Roughly 200 residents who packed into a church basement repeatedly broke out in cheers and applause at a public meeting where representatives from the two stores explained how they'll share the former Key Food building on Prospect Avenue and 11th Avenue.

The jubilant mood was a marked shift from last summer, when residents plotted in the same church basement to boycott Walgreens after it announced it was moving into the building once occupied by Key Food, leaving the neighborhood without a convenient source of fresh food.

Locals launched a massive grassroots resistance to Walgreens, and eventually gathered some 3,000 signatures on a boycott petition — about a third of the population of Windsor Terrace, organizers said.

The passion paid off. Residents suggested a hybrid store, and Walgreens listened, sitting down to negotiate the space-sharing deal with Key Food in September, Assemblyman Jim Brennan said Thursday.

“[Walgreens] could have easily, like a lot of major corporations, shut the door and said 'Take a walk,' but they didn’t,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who lives in Windsor Terrace. "They kept the communications open and they worked very closely every step of the way, and I think tonight, overwhelmingly, there should be a smile on your face, as there is on my face."

Walgreens owns the building and will lease about one-third of it to Key Food, a rendering of the space shows. Walgreens representative Hien Nguyen said he couldn't disclose how long Key Food's lease is, but said it was "long term."

Both stores are expected to open in July or August, Nguyen said. The Walgreens will feature an automated pharmacy that will allow pharmacists to spend more time consulting with customers, Nguyen said.

The Key Food is expected to employ 35 or 40 people and the Walgreens will have about 15 employees, officials said. The old Key Food had 50 workers.

The new Key Food will be a "top-notch, "state-of-the-art" store, said Gino Palummo, senior director of business development for Key Food.

Though the supermarket will be about 2,000 square feet smaller than the old Key Food, it will stock a full range of groceries, with a bakery, deli, butcher, fresh seafood, sushi, organic foods and a prepared foods section, Palummo said.

The new store's owner, Joe Zahriyeh, also owns a Key Food in Sunnyside, Queens, that Palummo said was one of the best-run stores in the Key Food chain. Palummo acknowledged that the old Windsor Terrace Key Food "needed a facelift" and promised that the new store would be a significant improvement.

One resident said he was so disappointed with the old Key Food's poor quality and high prices that he stopped shopping there. "Ultimately this Key Food was my grocery store of last resort," he said. "I sincerely hope you can do a lot better than what was done before."