By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The Associated Supermarket in Stuyvesant Town on East 14th Street will likely be closing by the end of this year, StuyTown general manager Rick Hayduk announced in an email to residents last Friday afternoon.
Hayduk noted in the message that management has been working with the store in an attempt to keep the market open through the holiday season, including by offering free rent, but the store reportedly still would not be able to guarantee that it could stay open through the end of the year.
The owners told management that the competitive environment for supermarkets, both locally and due to online ordering, led them to the decision to close.
Norman Quintanilla, who has been the manager at the store for the last 16 years, told Town & Village on Tuesday that they have notified employees that the last day would be December 10, but the store will likely end up closing by the end of November.
Quintanilla said that the decision wasn’t easy for store ownership and a number of regular customers were upset by the news.
“A lot of people are crying and upset about it,” he said. “It especially affects a lot of elderly customers that we help with phone orders. They don’t know where else to go.”
Quintanilla said that he wasn’t involved in discussions with Associated’s ownership and Blackstone regarding why the store is closing but he said that business has been steadily decreasing every year.
Hayduk said that ownership told him business was slower than normal this summer and Quintanilla added that there was a noticeable drop in business since the Target opened on East 14th Street as well and he expected that business would decrease further when the Trader Joe’s opens later this year. Online ordering from Fresh Direct and Amazon seems to have had an impact as well, he said.
Crain’s New York Business spoke with owner Joseph Falzon, who said that Target and Trader Joe’s opening nearby had an impact on the decision, but that the construction on the L train also caused a drop in business due to the 12-foot fence in front of the store. Falzon added that as business was slowing down due to the construction, the city’s new minimum wage of $15 an hour went into effect and significantly increased payroll.
Hayduk noted in the email that management is working on finding a new tenant while keeping in mind that a local grocery store is important to residents, but no specific commitments have been made yet and management said that finding a new tenant will take some time.
Town & Village reported in 2017 that property management gave the store a lease extension beyond the end of their lease that was set to expire that year, although no further details were available about what sort of agreement the store ultimately worked out. The extension came that June, shortly after Morton Williams had backed out of signing a lease on the space occupied by Associated. The chain backed out of the deal after learning that a Trader Joe’s would be opening across East 14th Street at the site of the old Peter Stuyvesant Post Office.
Associated has been open in Stuyvesant Town for 26 years.
“Not to have a real, regular, live grocery store is absolutely going to be a problem, especially for seniors in the neighborhood,” STPCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg said of the announced closure.
Steinberg noted that there has been outreach to the TA from tenants who have been upset by the news because they feel that Target and an incoming Trader Joe’s on East 14th between First Avenue and Avenue A, the other food stores closest to Stuyvesant Town, don’t have as many options as a full-service grocery store like Associated.
“[Associated has] hot foods and salad bars and Target and Trader Joe’s don’t have that,” Steinberg said, also noting that since the impending closure is a corporate business decision, there isn’t anything the Tenants Association can do.
“We want Associated to stay,” she said. “If there’s any way that corporate Associated Supermarkets could come around to our way of thinking, that would be great.”