A community staple for nearly five decades, the convenient, affordable grocery store has provided quality produce, fresh deli meats and all kinds of foods for generations of families.
Even as the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the Astoria Key Food’s unionized employees, who should be considered frontline heroes in their own right, kept the shelves fully stocked with goods. They committed to a thorough cleaning everyday and planned senior shopping hours in the morning.
Community members protested last year because they had learned of the landlord’s plan to raze a row of stores on 31st Street to build a new commercial building anchored by a Target. One year later, that fate is close to being realized as the store’s lease expires this October.
Not only would Key Food’s shuttering lead to the loss of a dependable supermarket in Astoria during a pandemic, but it would cost dozens of union jobs. Many of Key Food’s employees have worked there for decades, building a strong rapport with customers and becoming active members of the community.
Astoria’s elected leaders have reached out to Jenel Real Estate and A&H Acquisitions asking for at least a one-year lease to be worked out. It’s a short-term demand that will buy time for the Key Food’s owner, Man-Dell Foods, to figure out a way forward.
While Astoria likely can’t stop a huge chain store like Target from opening its doors, that doesn’t mean residents should be left without one of its beloved supermarkets.
Jenel Real Estate needs to negotiate not just a short-term lease with Key Food, but a long-term solution that will keep the grocery store and its unionized employees in Astoria.
It’s the only sensible answer that puts the needs of the community, and not profit, first.