Slideshow: Watch as Foodtown burns to the ground and then opens up last Saturday. (All photos by Adi Talwar)
By Jordan Moss and Lulaine Compere
Norwood’s popular Foodtown supermarket which was razed in a suspected incident of arson at the end of 2009 is back in business.
The store, now 50 percent larger with many more offerings, has taken up two neighboring storefronts that were home to a diner and a dental office that were also destroyed in the blaze.
“We expanded the store, we have a bigger seafood department, bakery department, produce department, and we have expanded the deli,” said Noah Katz, a member of the family that has owned the store since 1956.
Organic produce and frozen goods are new additions as are an olive and cheese counter and a section with a variety of coffee beans called Brewed Awakening.
Katz led the design of the new store, he said, and his pride in the store’s bright, spacious new look was palpable throughout a quick tour on Tuesday.
The supermarket’s total makeover includes wider aisles for shopping carts and strollers, modern lighting, and a number of large photos of a Bronx gone by, including Mosholu Parkway in 1911 and the intersection of Fordham Road and Valentine Avenue in 1951. Katz chose the images with the help of the Bronx County Historical Society.
Store staff, which the Katz family relocated temporarily to the store’s 13 other locations after the fire, are glad to be back.
“It was tough watching something you put 12 years into go up in smoke, but out of the ashes a new store has emerged,” said store manager Rick Shinnerer.
Katz expressed gratitude to his employees, who have stuck with his company through thick and thin. “How grateful we are to the people who work for us,” he said.
During two recent visits to the store, customers expressed relief that they no longer had to walk several blocks away to get their groceries.
Jeanette Cuevas, was beaming, as she shopped with her husband, Luis. She walks with a cane after back surgery and found it difficult to walk to other markets. “It’s beautiful,” she said, stopping briefly in the frozen food aisle to thank Noah Katz, who replied, “You deserve a first-class store at low prices.” He also commended them for buying the Foodtown brand of saltines which costs less.
The business has its roots in the pushcart of Noah’s grandfather, Paul, which first led to a fruit stand on Jerome Avenue before landing at the supermarket in 1956 on East 204th Street. Noah’s grandmother, Essie, worked the cash register next to Calvin Klein’s mom. It’s still a family business, which Noah operates with his father, Sydney, and brother, Daniel.
It was hard to visit the store as it reopened without staff and residents expressing sheer joy at its return.
“People really missed the supermarket, especially the elderly,” said Kerry, who only gave her first name. “People love the new look, the brand new sections. It’s good quality food, and really friendly customers.”