February 14, 2011

New Rumblings in Brooklyn

I have become used to the discontent voiced by many Brooklyn retailers about the “unfair competitive environment” in neighborhoods like Flatbush. This was the case when Shop Rite opened many years ago. Local stores argued that the chain had created an “unleveled playing field” and was sure to put some of them out of business. Shop Rite went on to become one of the more successful stores in the Wakefern network and none of the smaller retailers closed. Next came the voices against Pomegranate, the upscale gourmet kosher supermarket that opened in August 2008. While it did in many respects change the face of kosher retail in the area, it did not force any significant closings.

This week, I heard it again when it was announced that Moisha's Kosher Discount Supermarket was to receive $1.93 million to double its size on Avenue M in Midwood. According to press reports, the money comes from New York City’s Food Retail Expansion to Support Health program - which targets neighborhoods in Central Brooklyn, northern Manhattan, the South Bronx and other neighborhoods where fresh food is hard to find. Even though Moisha's is outside the target zone, city officials say the neighborhood counts as "underserved." Several City Councilman protested that the grant went against the purpose of the support. The Daily News counted 10 markets within 5 blocks of the store, all selling fresh fruits and vegetables. City officials pointed to a study showing the neighborhood had "moderate need" for supermarkets, and fewer markets per person than the city average. Once again, my kosher retailers cried foul, but like Shop Rite and Pomegranate, it is unlikely to force them out of business and the ultimate winners will once again be the kosher customer.