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'Store Closing' Signs Go Up at Gowanus Pathmark

By Leslie Albrecht | October 29, 2015 1:03pm
 Shoppers say they're devastated that one of the neighborhood's most affordable groceries is closing.
New Owner Could Replace Gowanus Pathmark With Another Supermarket
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GOWANUS — "Everything Must Go" and "Store Closing" signs went up Wednesday at the Pathmark grocery store, leaving bargain-hunting shoppers wondering where they will shop in the gentrifying neighborhood.

"We need a supermarket," Carroll Gardens resident Sal Vaccarino said. "It's going to mean devastation. What are we supposed to do?"

The Gowanus store is slated to close as soon as next month, employees said Wednesday.

Vaccarino said his heart sank when he walked into the sprawling supermarket and saw the signs.

Vaccarino, a 54-year-old retired educator and soap opera actor, said Pathmark seems to be the only store in the area for "working class, hard-working people that want the best deals they can get on groceries." Older residents who walk to the Gowanus Pathmark will be particularly hard hit, he said.

Dozens of locals lined up outside the store on opening day in November 1982, Vaccarino said.

"Everyone was so happy," recalled Vaccarino, who was in the line that day. "It was a big thing."

Since then the supermarket has served as a reliable grocery option as other stores have closed — including the Met Foodmarket on Smith Street — and more expensive ones have opened, such as the Fairway in Red Hook and the Whole Foods on Third Avenue and Third Street.

The fate of the space is still up in the air, but options include a different supermarket, the store's new owner told DNAinfo New York.

Real estate developer Joel Wertzberger said he hasn't "ruled out" leasing the space to a grocery store, but he's also considering offers from a shipping company, an "international clothing brand," a wedding hall operator and several retailers.

Wertzberger bought the lease on the Pathmark, which is in Hamilton Plaza shopping center at 137 12th St., for $6.3 million, according to court records. The sale was part of bankruptcy proceedings for Pathmark's parent company, A&P, which has been auctioning off its Pathmark, Superfresh and Waldbaums stores.

Wertzberger said in court filings that he didn't intend to run a supermarket in the space, but he told DNAinfo New York on Wednesday that it was still possible another grocery store could replace the Pathmark.

"All uses are being considered," Wertzberger said in an email.

Wertzberger is the managing member of real estate developer Joyland LLC, which acquired the lease under the name Manischevitz Family LLC. Wertzberger also bought the lease on a Pathmark store in Borough Park, and he's working with a retail broker from RKF to find tenants for both spaces.

The owner of Hamilton Plaza shopping center fought to reverse Wertzberger's purchase of the Gowanus store's lease in court, but a judge upheld the sale.

Employees said their union, United Food and Commercial Workers, is trying to help them find new jobs, but they weren't optimistic about their chances because there are thousands of other Pathmark workers facing unemployment soon. There are 125 union employees at the Gowanus Pathmark, a UFCW spokesman said

Among them is Travis Wiggins, 28, who's been a butcher at Pathmark for eight years. Now he's hoping to make money as an Uber driver. Wiggins has an 11-month-old son and his wife isn't working because she's in school to become a community health worker, he said.

"My son is going to be one next month and I'll be out of a job," Wiggins said. "I've got bills to pay and a mortgage to pay."