The only supermarket in the Woodlawn section of the Bronx, known affectionately as ‘Little Ireland,’ is set to close its doors shortly after St. Patrick’s Day. High rent and taxes are forcing its owners to shut up shop at the end of March.
The New York Daily News reports that the closing of Woodlawn Heights Grocery Store will come as a huge disappointment to community members, especially the elderly Irish, in the relatively isolated neighborhood.
John McGrath, who serves as a Woodlawn Taxpayers Association board member, said the closing would be "a disaster for the elderly in our neighborhood." The next closest grocery stores in the area are more than mile away in Yonkers or across the parkway in Wakefield.
"We cannot do without a grocery store," said McGrath, 61.
Further, the bus route that connects the areas no longer operates on the weekends. Many citizens have voiced their distaste for having to travel by bus or public transit to do their food shopping anyway.
The landlord of Woodlawn Height Grocery Store, Tony Monaco, says he is attempting to negotiate with a replacement tenant, though citizens are worries that the new facility will only be a large deli, instead of a full-size supermarket.
Joan Coogan (71), a native of Cork, said "I hope we get another supermarket. We were all crazy when we heard. We have nothing else up here and we elderly people, we don't drive."
The grocery store’s operator Dominick DeCicco, whose family has operated the C-Town Supermarkets franchise for more than thirty years, says he feels “terrible” about having to close its doors to the people of Woodlawn, but has to face reality.
"Woodlawn is a beautiful neighborhood," said DeCicco (59). "I know everybody here. We love the community. But we need to make a profit."
Currently, DeCicco pays more than $20,000 a month on rent, real estate taxes and insurance. That, coupled with shoppers tending to spend less, have forced him into the tough situation.
When landlord Tony Monaco received a letter from DeCicco requesting a 50 percent rent reduction, he was surprised.
"I was left speechless when I got the letter," he said. "Sure, the economy is bad. But what am I supposed to do?"
Monaco went onto say that he close to signing on a different “superette” that he believes will help meet the community’s needs. Local citizens, however, still have their doubts.
Outside organizations have been meeting in hopes of achieving a new agreement for the beloved grocery store in the Bronx. State Sen. Jeffrey Klein said he has requested a meeting with DeCicco and Monaco. He, state Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and City Councilman Oliver Koppell hope diffuse the matter.
Similarly, the Woodlawn Heights Merchants Association, is also working on the issue, said vice president Shawn Nealis. The group is also looking for tenants to fill a handful of empty storefronts along Katonah Ave.