WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — An Associated Supermarket that has served residents for more than three decades is set to become a Walgreens this spring, but the grocery store's owner is staying past the end of his lease in the hope it can be saved.
The threat of the market closing first came three years ago, when franchise owner Oswald Rodriguez met with management of the building at 592 Fort Washington Ave. and was told the store's lease would not be renewed when it expired on Jan. 1, 2016.
Associated handles rent payments for the supermarket, "so it was never an issue about the rent," he told Community Board 12's Business Development Committee Tuesday night.
“They said they weren’t interested because they already had someone that was going to pay them a lot more money," added Rodriguez, who said he has managed the grocery store at the corner of 187th Street for the past four years..
At the time, management company Benenson Capital Partners, LLC did not provide more information or an opportunity to counter the new offer, Rodriguez said. It wasn't until last month, when he reached out to Benson again to negotiate the lease before it expired, that the management office told him the new tenant was Walgreens, he said.
A spokesman for the drugstore chain, Phil Caruso, could not confirm that the company had signed a lease for the space.
"It's always been a family- or friend-owned," Rodriguez said of the grocery store, which currently employees 27 people.
“They didn’t even give us a chance to work out the lease,” he added. "The community is going to be hurt.”
Rodriguez said he didn't leave prior to the lease expiring because he was hoping to work something out with the landlord. On Tuesday night, he said he received a subpoena to appear in Civil Court on Monday, Jan. 11, regarding the holdover.
"Hopefully we’ll be able to get enough time until we can get something done, if we could get anything done," Rodriguez said.
A spokesman for Benenson Capital Partners said he could not speak about the issue.
"There are ongoing legal proceedings on this matter and under the advice of our attorney we will have no comment," Gary Sedorukm said.
Rodriguez, who said he's planning to launch an online petition and distribute fliers seeking support for the supermarket, stopped re-stocking his shelves in recent weeks. He's also searching for a space in Washington Heights to relocate his remaining merchandise and employees.
The board's Business Development Committee is planning a public hearing for Tuesday, Feb. 2, to discuss the situation. For more information, residents can contact the Community Board 12 office at 212-568-8500.
The District Manager, Ebenezer Smith, said the final time and location will be available on the CB12 monthly calendar at the end of January.