Jmart Owners Open To Carrying Both Asian & Non-Asian Food Products

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Councilman Mark Treyger and CB 11 District Leader Marnee Elias-Pavia and Councilman Peter Koo meet with the owners of Jmart. (Photo courtesy of CM Mark Treyger)

In response to the uproar over the sale of the New Utrecht Avenue Waldbaums — one of our area’s largest full-service supermarkets — to the Flushing-based Jmart, local elected officials have opened a dialogue with the building’s new owners.

Councilman Mark Treyger and Community Board 11 District Manager Marnee Elias-Pavia met with Jmart representatives last week to talk about ways the Asian supermarket could meet the grocery needs of Bensonhurst’s diverse communities. Councilman Peter Koo — who represents Flushing, Queens — helped facilitate the meeting.

Treyger told us that Jmart owners are very receptive to idea of carrying a selection of Italian, Jewish, and other ethnic food products in addition to the store’s typical stock of foods from across the Asian continent.

“They are committed to offering an array of foods reflective of the diversity of the neighborhood, from bok choy to San Marzano tomatoes, to fresh produce, to matzah, to brisket, to deli counters with fresh cold cuts, and cheeses,” said Treyger.

As we’ve reported, the 37-year-old Waldbaum closed down in November of last year as part of its parent company A&P’s bankruptcy filing and was eventually auctioned off to the Queens-based Jmart. The deal didn’t sit well with some neighbors, who charge that the Bensonhurst is oversaturated with Asian markets, and a petition circulated, calling for Trader Joe’s to bid on the property instead.

CB 11 and Treyger have made a point to condemn the racist comments that flooded social media regarding the sale, but said that neighbors also have legitimate concerns about construction noise, Waldbaums’ laid-off employees, and food selection at the incoming Asian market.

“While we reject the divisive rhetoric, one of beautiful things about Bensonhurst is you can walk down 86th Street and have the world at your palate,” said Treyger. “This is a neighborhood that was really shaken up; it was a poorly communicated process from beginning to end, and I wanted to reiterate a frustration that was valid.”

At the “very productive” meeting, Jmart reps also agreed, through a translator, to meet with the 70 employees laid off in the Waldbaums closure to discuss employment opportunities, according to Treyger. Jmart is considering holding a job information session in the fall when they are close to opening.

Jmart’s owners told Treyger that they are also open to recognizing seasonal holidays with decorations and special holiday foods the way their predecessors did.

Photo courtesy of Councilman Mark Treyger

A cleaner Waldbaums parking lot. (Photo courtesy of Councilman Mark Treyger)

In a gesture of goodwill, Treyger and Councilman Vincent Gentile have enlisted Wildcat Services to clean up Waldbaums’ abandoned parking lot, which — as we’ve reported — has become an illegal dumping ground for trash and debris. Jmart also recently installed “No Parking” signs at the site so that they may begin the construction on a brand new building.

  • Sean F

    Excellent work by the CB and the Councilman. Dialogue beats diatribe any day of the week.

    I drove through the Waldbaum’s lot yesterday. Most of the illegally parked cars are gone, but someone had overturned all of the No Parking signs. My son suggested they may have blown over, but then noticed that they’d all been secured with sandbags. The overturning was clearly intentional on someone’s part.

  • ROSALIE907

    Glad to hear that they’re adding non Asian products so that they can appeal to all residents in the neighborhood. Kudos to Councilmen Treyger, Gentile and CB-11 for their work to have this happen.

    As for the parking lot, this is private property that belongs to Jmart and I can’t wait for them to put up security cameras to catch the creeps who are knocking over the signs, dumping garbage and whatever else including parking their cars and thinking they have every right to do this.

  • Robert D

    Hiring the staff of the closed Walbums over hard working, cheap Asian labor? An “ethnic isle” for Italians and Jews? Do you people live in la-la land? Jews shop at the Shoprite on McDonald or the new large Kosher supermarket replacing Pathmark. Italians can shop at Sal and Jerrys or Pastosa. Don’t worry local residents…Oreo’s are still sold in every food market.

    • Sean F

      I’m hoping the old Waldbaums staff has since found new employment. I’d hate to think they remained unemployed after so many months.

      I used to see neighborhood Jewish shoppers in Waldbaums. I don’t see why they wouldn’t pop into JMart if it had what they need, rather than schlep over to Avenue I. The new store on 60th and 13th might be more appealing, but not for grabbing a quick item or two.

      Italians have plenty of options in the neighborhood. Always have, but most of the noise directed against JMart came from people of Italian descent. Some will check out JMart, and shop there if it has what they want at a decent price, or they’ll go to those stores you mention (or Meats Supreme, or Bari, or Faicco’s, etc.)

      Ah, yes, Oreos! “Our Republic’s Epicurean Original”! At least they haven’t degenerated in flavor like Twinkies did.

      • len7

        prices in stores like Meat Supreme are ridiculously high.they act like they are the only sellers of meat in brooklyn. shoppers who like meat and chicken they can recognize won’t buy in asian markets. asian markets have tons of pork and unmarked poultry(no brand name) and they may also have the chicken’s head still on.this is because nothing is wasted or discarded by chinese people.
        you can buy something for$10.01 and get back 99cents in change.this is what they are like-every cent counts.and, do you really want to shop in a store where there are asian people all around the neighborhood collecting empty soda cans? how gross is that?
        as far as the duck feet,you can eat 20 pounds of duck or chicken feet and still feel like you didn’t eat anything.
        Its well known that italian americans are not big fans of chinese food.many believe that the chinese in brooklyn eat cats and dogs
        and they won’t go to a chinese restaurant. even Jewish people who “love” chinese food, don’t know how to make it and don’t buy anything in asian markets. Its obvious that chinese families are buying real estate all over brooklyn and other groups are leaving. why should Trader Joe want to go where there are asians and russians and little else. and the orthodox Jews have
        their own kosher markets and never shop anywhere else. they can’t,no matter how expensive kosher food is.
        so,what we have here is a stack of separate ethnic and religious
        groups,one pushing up against another,each regarding itself as
        superior to the others,each suspicious of the others.
        the asians don’t want their markets full of italians or jews or russians and neither do those groups want to see chinese shopping in their stores.
        You want to see Russians,go to the many Netcost supermarkets in broooklyn.Go to Avenue M for kosher supermarkets- even the prices in Meat Supreme aren’t that high.
        I have never seen an asian person in a Meat Supreme and that will not happen,even if they have to take the train to chinatown in manhattan.
        I have seen many asians in the subway carrying heavy loads of food from chinatown.Now,they won’t have to do that anymore.
        Having one store with products for everyone is unrealistic and just won’t work,anyway.

        • Sean F

          Anyone who can’t recognize the meat they get in an Asian supermarket hasn’t been paying attention to what they buy in American or Italian stores. The beef, pork and poultry in the Asian stores is significantly fresher and better than almost anything I get in Meats Supreme or Stop and Shop or ShopRite (though I still buy some there because their sale prices are better, and you can do a lot with an inferior cut of meat with proper marination and preparation). And if they are afraid of chickens with the heads on, the butcher at the counter will dress the meat upon request, just like they used to do in the Italian butchers of old.

          If you haven’t seen Asians in Meats Supreme, you haven’t been paying attention. Not only my wife, but many of my Asian neighbors do shop there. They usually aren’t buying meat, though. More likely milk, bread, eggs and certain packaged goods. They are bargain shoppers, and sometimes, the MS sales make it worth shopping there.

          But, I agree. Diversification in the neighborhood does make a one-stop-shop very difficult to achieve.

        • Dorothy Berman

          Len 7, you are so wrong. You will see Italians and Jews ( both Orthodox and not) shopping in the Chinese markets on Avenue U. They have even added kosher foods and Italian sausages and other Italian pasta items to their shelves. They have gone out of their way to appeal to others besides themselves. The Asians do not have any problems having their markets full of Italians and Jews. Also, Italians and Jews have not problem with Chinese shopping in their stores. Stop in any of the kosher markets on Avenue J or Avenue M and you will see many, yes many Chinese shopping there.

    • pug_ster

      I don’t know what the Italians are complaining about when they can shop at Frank and Sals at 18th ave and 80th. I rarely seen Jews shopped at Waldbaums ever since they sold to A&P and the specialties for passover always ended up being sold ‘for a quick sale’ afterwards.

      Besides, the people who are complaining are the ones who refuse to recognize that Bensonhurst is already gentrified with Chinese and the Chinese are the ones who actually want to invest into this neighborhood while the Italians are cashing out.

      • Netizan

        The Chinese only want to invest here so they can get their green cards, thanks to the EB-5 program:
        http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-0830-chinese-visas-20140830-story.html
        Maybe that’s why people are complaining-its an abomination that most of our parents and grandparents had to wait in line to become citizens. Now the Chinese get to jump the line by paying.

        • whatswrongwiththat

          What’s wrong with this first step becoming US citizen?

        • Sean F

          Most of our parents and grandparents weren’t wealthy investors who were bringing billions of dollars INTO the U.S. economy.

      • len7

        absolutely true,yet the chinese still keep collecting soda cans.why is that?

        • Sean F

          Because it’s a good source of additional income that even the elderly can bring in to contribute to the family. And, since it’s nothing more than redeeming for refunds, it’s not taxable. Smart people.

          • right

            Also good reason to exercise instead of sitting indoors watching CBS whole day.

            But I won’t encourage. I rather want more city funding into elderly community centers and to support poor families with elders so less incentive to do such dirty work.

          • Sean F

            It won’t change much. The Chinese have an incredible work ethic, and they put family first. If the elders are able-bodied, most would rather be contributing by collecting bottles than sitting in a store-front playing Majong.

    • GrowUp

      To those of you still find whole chicken or whole fish disgusting: Grow up.

  • Drew B

    I’ll believe it when I see it…

  • HelloDolly

    The guy to the right of Treyger is Councilman Peter Koo…he’s not an “owner” of Jmart. Just saying…

    • Rachel Silberstein

      You are right! Will update!

  • SC

    I’m not familiar with Jmart. (I have not been to the one in Flushing.) I heard it’s bigger than the Asian supermarkets in Brooklyn.) I am hoping it’s similar to 99 Ranch (large Asian supermarket with food court) in California. (I miss the 99 Ranch when I lived in California.) In Brooklyn, I have not found an equivalent to 99 Ranch.