By Sabina Mollot
On Monday, employees of the Stuyvesant Town Associated Supermarket, where the owners had been negotiating to keep the store’s lease, all got letters informing them that Morton Williams is going to be taking over the space.
According to one employee, the letter says workers, who are unionized, will get to keep their jobs for at least three months and at that point will be evaluated.
“They have a big company and room to grow,” the worker said the letter from Morton Williams informed them.
Meanwhile, one of the store’s owners, Joseph Falzon, had told Town & Village last month he was almost certain his lease would not be getting renewed. Though a lease has yet to be signed with Morton Williams, Falzon said he suspects a new tenant would have to pay double the rent Associated is paying, which is now $60,000 a month.
“We were out of the ballpark as far as they were concerned,” Falzon said of the landlord. “There was no way we could pay the rent and stay in business.”
Blackstone has remained mum about the negotiations although the owner had promised to keep an affordable supermarket in the complex. Meanwhile, Associated’s lease isn’t up until around the end of the year.
Rick Hayduk, general manager of Stuyvesant Town and CEO of Blackstone’s management company StuyTown Property Services, wouldn’t discuss the negotiations beyond confirming they’re happening.
“We are in conversation with Morton Williams,” said Hayduk, “and we remain committed to an affordable grocery for residents of PCVST as well as any of the community members it services.”
Reached at his office, Morton Sloan, one of the founding owners of Morton Williams, told T&V, “We will be communicating with the community when the time is right.”
Morton Williams is a family-run business, and two of the company’s supermarkets aren’t far from Stuy Town, one on Park Avenue South and 22nd Street and another on 23rd Street in East Midtown Plaza.
Associated has been located at 409 East 14th Street for 25 years. Falzon said he heard Morton Williams would be remodeling the store, which is something he’d wanted to do for Associated, although he admitted he wouldn’t have renovated “to the extent that they want.”
The supermarket employs over 80 people full and part-time. This will be the third supermarket Falzon and his partners have closed in recent years. The last one, on 14th Street and Eighth Avenue, also closed due to a rent issue, and before that a Met Food supermarket on Third Avenue closed. The partners still have a small, 5,000 square foot Associated on Avenue C and Eighth Street. This store, Falzon said, “is very low volume.”
He’s not sure what the partners’ next moves will be, though he ruled out opening a store across 14th Street at one of the new under-construction buildings. He cited concerns about current asking rents in the area as well as the fact that he doesn’t want to be across the street from a competitor.
“One of you is not going to make it,” he said.
Falzon added, “I’m very sorry we couldn’t reach a deal and we want to thank our customers for supporting us all these years. Everything’s coming to an end. Rents in New York right now are not very favorable to small business owners.”
Falzon first became concerned about the renewal of the Associated’s lease in the fall of 2015 after he said then-landlord CWCapital stopped communicating with him on the subject.