Local grocery store changes hands after 37 years in the community
“No, no, I got it,” says Richie Durso, the co-owner of Key Food to his teenaged employee, as he bends to pick up a box of canned goods and place them on the shelves. He turns around immediately, and explains to yet another customer, probably for the 20th time that day, that her long-term coupon won’t be good next week, because Sunday is their last day in the store.
After 37 years, brothers Richie and Frank Durso have sold their Key Foods franchise – a store that has become a staple in the neighborhood. Frank, the elder brother, said that it’s high time, at age 61, that he retires. The store will remain a Key Foods, but has been sold to Mike Hassin, a Key Foods member who owns several New York Key Foods stores, as well as a C-Town on Long Beach, Long Island, that he bought after Hurricane Sandy had all but destroyed the place. The store will supposedly remain open during the change-over, but Mr. Hassin could not be reached for confirmation of this. Richie insists that Hassin is a competent and upstanding owner, but Frank said that the store won’t be the same.
“We’re a neighborhood icon,” said Frank Durso. “No one will treat our customers like we do.”
Durso’s customers are also concerned about the change in their local store. Many customers were asking the brothers what changes would come with the new owners, but they could not provide answers. Carol McCabe, the director at the nearby Knickerbocker Senior Center, said that seniors are most worried about if the new owners will raise prices. “Here in the East 90s, that’s definitely the biggest concern,” she said.
Josephine Dietz, a nearby resident, said that if the store closed temporarily or changed, she might have to take her business elsewhere.
“This isn’t good at all, the store is run by good people,” said Dietz. “It’s a shame.”
It’s also a shame for four out of five employees at Key Food. The new employers are hiring a completely new staff. One employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said that come Monday he will start looking for another job.
But the Durso brothers are trying to help the transition run as smoothly as possible.
“Come Monday morning they will open, and it will be like we never left,” said Richie Durso.
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