Food City is set to close its doors for the last time on June 3, after 25 years in business near the Mamaroneck border.
“It’s a very sad day when you have to leave a neighborhood that has afforded you business for the past 25 years,” said Paul Burger, CEO of Food City.
The store will be shuttered after struggling to stay afloat for several years amid competition from nearby big-name supermarket franchises, home delivery services and advanced checkout.
“We can’t blame it on just one item,” said Paul Burger, the CEO of Food City. “It was a culmination of costs, including taxes, employee wages and worker’s compensation.”
This story originally appeared in the May 25, 2012 edition of the Harrison Review
Among the many costs, the price tag for labor has perhaps been the grocery store’s most high-profile burden in recent years, as manage- ment has struggled over a new contract with its employees. Union protests took place at the store’s Halstead Avenue location last year while administrators cut health and pension contributions citing a lack of ability to pay.
Mike Domo, 47, a member of Local 338 and an employee with Food City since they first came to Harrison, is one of only a few employees set to transfer to Food City’s sister-franchise in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
“The majority of workers here are going to be laid off,” Domo said, “It’s disappointing because over time we’ve developed relationships with the locals.”
The loss of the grocery store, on its surface, seemed like the latest casualty in Harrison’s struggling downtown. But town officials quieted concerns over the potential of a massive empty storefront when they confirmed this week that DeCicco Family Markets will take over the property after Food City is out. DeCicco’s, which intends to open for business by fall, has been heralded by government officials as a destination grocery store and exactly the type of business essential to revitalizing the Halstead Avenue corridor.
“Right now, the town is going through a Renaissance phase,” Ron Belmont, Harrison’s mayor, said. Belmont, a Republican, said he had met with the DeCicco family personally hoping to ensure that they would open a location in Harrison.
Although Food City ran into some difficulty with Local Union 338, workers are optimistic they will have a more cordial relationship with DeCicco’s. According to Joseph Fontano, the political director and communications officer for the union, DeCicco’s has an outstanding track record when it comes to how they treat union workers. “They also plan on renovating the market and drastically increasing the workforce,” he said.
Fontano said that the switch would potentially create between 60-65 additional jobs over the roughly 20 employees at Food City.
But for people like Food City deli clerk Rich Riker, 34, those numbers won’t help some of the current employees who will be left fending for themselves.
“Nobody has come around and asked us to stay on after they switch,” Riker said. “Hopefully, one of my friends can help me get a job at Trader Joe’s… Until then I’m just go- ing to ride it out as long as possible.”
Harrison is expecting to become the ninth town in the Westchester/Putnam county area with a DeCicco’s marketplace. Though many residents hold out hope for the new store, that doesn’t mean they aren’t sad to see the old Food City leave. “I don’t know about DeCicco’s, but I like this place,” said Jay Gunderson, 47. “I come here every day, like a regular market.”
Calls to DeCicco’s seeking comment were not returned by press time.