By Sabina Mollot
That was fast.
A mere few days after employees at Stuyvesant Town’s Associated Supermarket were warned that their new employer (for at least a 90-day trial period) would be Morton Williams, the latter supermarket company decided it would not be signing a lease for the space, said Joseph Falzon, one of four owners of the Associated.
Morton Williams apparently decided to pull the plug after hearing that a Trader Joe’s would be moving across the street from Stuyvesant Town in the site that was formerly home to the Peter Stuyvesant Post Office.
The developers behind that under-construction residential building, Mack Real Estate Group and Benenson Capital Partners, declined to comment through a spokesperson. A spokesperson for Trader Joe’s did not yet respond to a request for comment, nor did a spokesperson for Morton Williams.
But according to Falzon, one of his partners was contacted by Morton Williams on Friday to say the negotiations with Stuy Town were off. However, he has yet to hear from Blackstone, on what, if anything this means for his own lease, which is up at the end of the year.
“You want to know where you stand when you’re dealing with your future and dealing with your livelihood,” said Falzon, who started trying to get his lease renewed two years ago with then-owner CWCapital. “It’s been very emotional for us and the employees.”
He said previously he believed Morton Williams would have paid double his own rent; Associated’s is around $60,000.
“With Trader Joe’s going in there, I really don’t know (what’s going to happen),” said Falzon. “Not only is Trader Joe’s coming, there’s going to be a Target coming around the corner,” he added, referring to the big box’s decision to open a small location on East 14th Street at the Extell development in 2018.
He estimated that once it’s open, Trader Joe’s would take one third to one half of Associated’s business. “That’s a conservative estimate,” he said.
Last week, when it looked like Morton Williams was very close to signing a lease, Falzon ruled out the possibility of opening his own store at one of the new developments being built on the other side of the street. Because, he explained of opening opposite a competitor, “One of you is not going to make it.”
Reopening a location in Gramercy where he and his partners previously operated a Met Food store is also not even a thought, with Falzon saying he heard after two years of remaining vacant, half that store’s space has been leased.
Asked about Morton Williams’ decision to withdraw from negotiations, Rick Hayduk, general manager of Stuyvesant Town, said no lease had been signed. Last week, he mentioned this as well, though he confirmed there were negotiations.
“Associated continues with their lease,” he added. “No final decision has been made with respect to the tenant for this space on a go-forward basis.”
As for the Trader Joe’s, according to the Real Deal, who first reported on that deal, it will be 23,000 square feet across a ground floor and lower level. It isn’t clear what the grocer will pay in rent. The deal was actually quietly made a couple of months ago, according to the article. It was around that time when the building owners gave up a fight for a variance that would have allowed them to build higher than zoning allows.