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8-Story Apartment Building Planned on Key Food Site in Crown Heights

 An eight-story residential building will soon be built on top of the Key Food on Washington Avenue and Lincoln Place, the store's owners said.
An eight-story residential building will soon be built on top of the Key Food on Washington Avenue and Lincoln Place, the store's owners said.
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DNAinfo/Rachel Holliday Smith

CROWN HEIGHTS — A longtime neighborhood grocery store is on the brink of becoming something much bigger.

The Key Food at 801 Washington Ave. and Lincoln Place will close next year to make way for a new eight-story residential building, according to the Othman family, which has owned the supermarket for 40 years.

The family is nearing a deal with a developer to sell the air rights on the 7,400-square-foot property on the border of Prospect Heights and Crown Heights that includes three mom-and-pop stores — The Islands Caribbean restaurant, a deli and the Good Nature Pharmacy — located next door, the owners told DNAinfo New York.

But the Key Food isn’t going anywhere after construction is done. Sadi Othman, one of several brothers and cousins who run the market, said the family will retain ownership of the first floor where the grocery store will reopen in expanded form after the project is complete.

“The whole bottom floor is going to be for us,” he said. “It’s not sold.”

Othman said his father and his three brothers moved from Palestine to open a food market on Washington Avenue in the late 1960s, then opened the Key Food a few years later. The family has been running it ever since, he said.

“This is from our fathers. They made this. They worked hard for it. They came from back home, they built this place,” he said. “So, we don’t want to just give it up.”

Othman said the planned residential building will have 54 apartments. The deal will likely be complete in two or three months, with construction beginning sometime next year, he said. News of the deal was first reported on the local message board Brooklynian.

Though the supermarket will remain in the same location, the three stores next door will have to move. But, for one of them, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The Islands, a popular Caribbean spot, has operated in its location next to the Key Food for 15 years, serving dinner in a tiny seating area located above the kitchen, accessible only by a narrow staircase. Now, with a move imminent, co-owner Marilyn Reid said the restaurant has plans to move to a much bigger space down the avenue — at 671 Washington Ave., formerly Janelle’s restaurant.

“It’s great because we can do more,” she said, speaking from behind the restaurant’s counter as she cooked. “We’ll be able to do breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunches. And hopefully we’ll get a liquor license, too.”

Two doors down from The Islands, Good Nature Pharmacy also plans to reopen on the avenue — the first move for the business since its 1936 opening, according to pharmacist Richard Mostrata, who has worked there for 35 years. And he plans to stay, saying there are “good possibilities” for commercial space on the avenue when his lease runs out.

“Everybody says ‘Don’t leave! We need you!’ I say, ‘We’ll take care of you, don’t worry’ because everybody’s family over here,” he said inside the pharmacy on Monday.

Othman says when the Key Food reopens it will be larger, better stocked and open on holidays, as always.

“We love the neighborhood. We love the people here. And we want to stay,” he said.