Neighbors on Syracuse's North Side now have access to a full-service grocery store again. They have been without one since the Wegmans on Pond Street closed last June. The celebration felt like a reunion, as residents checked out the store's new features and product, and reminisced about how long they'd been shopping in this location. One shopper remembered back 28 years, to when Victory Markets occupied the site, even before Wegmans.
Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner called the opening a mission accomplished. 'We said it was a priority,' she told the crowd, noting the North Side now has a full-service grocery store, offering fresh produce. The new, bigger store (32,500 square feet) has hired 100 North Side residents as part of its work force.
Tops CEO Frank Curci made it clear the store intends to cater to area residents: "Now we understand that the neighborhood is unique, and we also understand the importance of being a neighborhood grocer, not just another supermarket chain."The grocery is the first Tops in the Syracuse area to also offer a community room. "When people feel it's their store," says Curci, "they come here more often and we're both more successful."
On Tuesday morning, the parking lot was full as hundreds gathered for the formal ribbon cutting for the new Tops Markets at First North and Pond Streets. The ceremony included North Side touches, including Maria DeSantis singing the National Anthem, and a giant puppet in the audience. Open Hand Theater, also on the North Side, was one of ten neighborhood groups receiving $500 donation checks from Tops. "This is gonna be a godsend to us all," said Larry Fuller, who manages the food pantry at First English Lutheran Church, another recipient. The other 8 include Northeast Community Center Food Pantry, Interfaith Food Pantry, Assumption Church, All Faith Food Pantry, Ross Towers, Vinette Towers, Catholic Charities of Onondaga County and Interfaith Works - Center for New Americans.
Construction on the site began in October, 2012. The store has a full-service deli, bakery and meat and seafood departments as well as a dairy and frozen food departments. It also offers fresh produce and a floral department along with a Carry Out Caf that offers prepared foods and an eat-in dining area. The store has four self check-out stations, a can and bottle redemption room, and customer service center. It also has a full-service Pharmacy. The Syracuse Industrial Development Agency (SIDA) approved a special package of tax incentives for the project. SIDA voted unanimously to approve a 10 year break on city taxes for a TOPS Friendly Markets at the site. Additionally, the developer Morgan Management LLC will not have to pay sales tax on construction materials used in the development of the site.
On Pond Street, shoppers were checking out, even before the official opening, with glowing comments. Most admitted they'd come to compare to the Wegmans that was here before, and most liked this one better. 'It's very nice', 'I'm thrilled,' 'beautiful, big and nice,' and 'Nice to see a store here again, the community missed it a lot,' among the comments. Shoppers told us they made do while the store was closed, many going to another Tops in Shop City. Curci promised that store will remain open despite its closeness to the new one.
Mayor Miner may have the claim to the most new supermarket openings in an administration---and told us that's something she's very proud of (the Tops in Valley Plaza opened in late October, a PriceRite on Teall Ave just days before that among recent openings). Miner says she's continuing to work on more groceries for other Syracuse neighborhoods that do not have access to fresh produce now.