Farewell Waldbaums: Longtime Employees & Customers Mourn Supermarket’s Demise

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waldbaums

Photo by brokennecksfeatherweight via Instagram

With its shelves nearly bare and red clearance signs plastering its windows, the beloved neighborhood supermarket was eerily quiet today.

Waldbaums at 8121 New Utrecht Avenue — a casualty of A&P’s recent bankruptcy filing — was scheduled to be sold to Key Food along with 16 other stores this fall. However, complications arose during the negotiation process when it was discovered that a landlord owned two thirds of the New Utrecht Avenue store, while A&P owned the remaining third, reported Supermarket News.

waldbaums

Photo by Rachel Silberstein/Bensonhurst Bean

So when another investor expressed interest in Waldbaums, A&P decided to pull the supermarket from the package, instead offering Key Food “super bid protection,” meaning it could acquire the remaining 16 locations without ever going to auction. It was “an opportunity of a lifetime,” according to Key Food CEO Dean Janeway.

The second offer on Waldbaums apparently didn’t pan out either, and with no buyer, the store is scheduled to close on November 19.

A spokesperson for A&P declined to comment, but the store is now expected to return to the auction.

waldbaums

Photo by Rachel Silberstein/Bensonhurst Bean

In the meantime, things are looking rather bleak for Waldbaums’ 70 employees. The supermarket workers’ union Local 388 told Bensonhurst Bean that it has worked to negotiate comparable pay packages for employees at the other A&P stores that were sold to Key Food, but there is little it can do for Waldbaums until the company finds a buyer.

“What we’re doing is providing as many resources to anyone who is displaced during the process,” said Local 388 treasurer Joseph Fontano.

According to Fontano, this includes working with the city to set up resource fairs with recruiters, instruction on filling for unemployment, and resume writing workshops.

Photo by Rachel Silberstein/Bensonhurst Bean

Photo by Rachel Silberstein/Bensonhurst Bean

When we visited the store today, several dozen customers roamed the massive space, which had entire aisles cleared of food items, though some cans, spices, and dry goods — all heavily marked down in price — remained. The feeling was solemn and nostalgic as employees and customers bemoaned the loss of a 37-year neighborhood institution.

“I remember coming here as a child and the store was huge!” deli clerk Diana Winters told us. “Now it feels smaller.”

Winters, who says her coworkers have become like family, will lose her job on November 19 and be forced to go on unemployment.

Manager XXX with deli clerks Diana Winters and Maria Elisa

Diana Winters (center) and Maria Elisa Suarez (right) with their manager. Photo by Rachel Silberstein/BensonhurstBean

Maria Elisa Suarez, 32, a deli clerk whose husband Abel who works the night shift, told us her family of five will lose two breadwinners as a result of the closure, but she is especially sad to say goodbye to her colleagues.

“It’s not even bittersweet, it’s just bitter,” said Suarez. “It was great working here. We were with great people and great friends. I didn’t mind coming to work every day. It was just a wonderful place to work. The customers were really nice; the manager was wonderful.”

Photo by Rachel Silberstein/Bensonhurst Bean

Charlie has been working at Waldbaums for 27 years. Photo by Rachel Silberstein/Bensonhurst Bean

For one employee, a 27-year veteran of Waldbaums who identified himself as Charlie, said he saw store’s closure is an opportunity to explore a new career path.

“It’s not good for a lot of people, but for me, it was the push I needed to move on in my life. I’m one of those people that I help everyone else before I help myself,” he said.

Photo by Rachel Silberstein/Bensonhurst Bean

Photo by Rachel Silberstein/Bensonhurst Bean

Customers also expressed dismay over the impending closure, observing that the area’s aging population relies heavily on the supermarket.

“It was close to home and you can depend on getting sales and bargains from time to time,”  said Diana Ruta, who has been shopping at the supermarket for more than 30 years. “We’re hoping to get another supermarket in here that’s also affordable.”
  • ROSALIE907

    We need a Shop Rite in this area.Shop Rites in Brooklyn, One at McDonald and 19th Avenue and the other at the Gateway Mall so it would make sense to have one in a neighborhood like this.

  • Dean

    i would love if wegman’s would come in and buy out this location and spruce it up.

    • EndofDaze

      Dream on! For that to happen they would have to bring Berlitz coaches with them, but they could save lots of money , for they wouldn’t need to stock much tissues and handkerchiefs! Lol.

      • Sean F

        Yes, but they’ll make a bundle selling crosses and lighter fluid to certain bigots.

        • EndofDaze

          Just stating a fact of life around here, if one is actually observing the boom that is happening in southern Brooklyn! And the nature of it…Personally, I would like to see a Trader Joe’s! But that ain’t going to happen here, either…Actually I’m happy with net cost, as I continue to improve my Russian and Ukrainian, and marvel at all these non landsmen eastern Slavs!!! Have a nice day.

          • Sean F

            There are ways of stating facts that don’t sound the way your comment sounded. Personally, I prefer English as the language of choice in public, but I remember my grandparents who only spoke Sicilian for a long time after they came here, and realize that not everyone is prepared (or comfortable enough) to use English. Even though I studied Italian for many years, I’d be lost trying to use mine in Italy today. But, if every other business here can make a go of it without “Berlitz coaches”, then Wegman’s would be the same, and it needn’t be commented upon.

            BTW, my wife and I agree with you completely. We’d love a Trader Joe’s. I hate schlepping that stuff home from Manhattan on the subway. $0.19 bananas get HEAVY over a long distance!

          • EndofDaze

            Your point is well taken…Additionally, it’s always nice to find an articulate and thoughtful commenter on this thread… BTW, outside of English, which is my favorite tongue, you use my next favorite idioms! I like your use of old Yiddish (and I’m sure it’s not Black Hat inspired) and the Italian Sicilian, well, where I come from, you can’t get much better, than those two…

          • Sean F

            Much appreciated and the thought is reciprocated. These are discussion threads, not “beat the other commenters into the ground” threads. Not many people realize that calm discussion is better than random talking points, and hit-and-run postings.

            And really? What kind of schlemiel grows up in Brooklyn without assimilating plenty of Yiddish? 🙂

    • Sean F

      Wegman’s stores are nice. Unfortunately, in New York, they have no presence outside of upstate. I don’t know if that’s due to local legislation, taxes or just where their distribution hubs are located. Still, it would be nice to have another player in the market here.

  • Azar Attura

    OMG– WALDBAUMS!! I love you!! Gonna MISS YOU!!!!!

  • May

    How long was this Waldbaums open for?

    • Evan1407

      I moved to 82nd Street and 19th Avenue in February, 1995 and it was already for a while.

      • May Yeung

        Yep.. I ask because this article referred to the worker, Charlie, as a 27-year veteran “working at Waldbaums for 27 years” … seemed off.

        • Rachel Silberstein

          37 years.

          • May Yeung

            ahh I see, thanks for clarifying. 🙂

  • Evan1407

    I think Frank & Sal’s should expand and move in.