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Residents list wants at new grocery

One of the last American food markets in downtown Flushing has been gone since May, and many non-Asian area residents are lobbying hard to ensure that its replacement carries the foods they expect from a grocery.

The manager of New York Mart, the fifth store in a chain of Asian markets in the city, seems willing to try to accommodate those customers who used to frequent Key Food, the previous occupant of 142-41 Roosevelt Ave., according to James McClelland, a spokesman for City Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing).

“Residents are concerned that they’re not going to have the items and the owner was very amenable and sounded like he was open to carrying those items,” McClelland said.

But there have been no guarantees yet about what exactly the store’s shelves will hold because it is difficult for the managers to mandate what a food market carries.

New York Mart is currently selling fruits and vegetables on outdoor displays at the old Key Food location, but will not open its new store until it completes massive renovations, which will not conclude until at least the end of the fall.

The store will be 18,000 square feet, up from 10,000 square feet, according to McClelland, as New York Mart plans to finish the basement in order to use it as storage space. The work will not change the footprint, but the sales floor will be markedly larger than it was at Key Food.

Koo met with New York Mart representatives and area residents Monday to enable former Key Food shoppers to spell out exactly which items and services they expect from their beloved store’s replacement.

The Rev. Sherrell Jordan, a concerned neighbor who lives four blocks from the store, said the availability of “Americanized foods” is her and other residents’ largest concern.

“We need at least an aisle or two of American foods,” she said. “You know, milk, dairy, bread, stuff like that, certain meats that we’d like to have, cereals. Just the basic things you need for your children.”

Other residents said they want to see food stamps, credit cards and coupons honored at New York Mart, and that they would like it to have a full deli counter.

General Manager William Chen told The Wall Street Journal he plans to work with residents to address their concerns.

“They were asking for a deli. We actually don’t have much experience with delis,” Chen said. “It’s a good idea, but I have to consult with people who have experience with that.”

Jordan said it is important that the store offer the items and services the future customers have asked for because of the prevalence of non-Asian seniors in the area who depend on the site for their grocery shopping needs. The closest store to New York Mart is a Met Food on Bowne Street, but residents said it is smaller and has a limited selection.

“The senior citizen home is right next door to the Key Food and a lot of them have to walk or use walkers or wheelchairs, so getting to Met Food is a big ordeal,” she said.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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