“I really want the village to be vibrant and ... that store to be full, but I’m really having a hard time with a 99-cent type store,” stated Malverne resident Tom Grech. “It seems like shlock and junk."
Grech was one of more than 30 residents who filled Village Hall Thursday night to learn more about the future of the vacant supermarket located in Malverne’s downtown.
Three different supermarket chains have tried to succeed at the 344 Hempstead Ave. property in recent years, but all have failed.
“A supermarket is not going to work here,” Grech added. “The people voted with their feet. They did not support [them.]”
Deputy Mayor Joseph Hennessy explained that the village also reached out to Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Kings, King Kullen, and Wild by Nature, asking them to come to Malverne, but the property did not meet any of their needs.
Now, the landlord, Tammy Teller, of Bellrex Associates, whose family has owned the property since the 1970s, is hoping to try something new. She submitted an application to the Malverne village board to change the designated use of the building from a “supermarket” to a “general market,” a switch that requires the board to grant a special exception.
Teller already has a new tenant ready to move in should the village grant the permit. Business partners Eddie Marinelli, Angelo Giannuzzi and Naeem Baig have agreed to sign a 15-year lease for the 9,000 sq. ft. property if they are allowed to open a discount variety store there.
The Malverne General Store, as it would be called, would carry more than 5,000 “brand-name staple products and high-end close-out merchandise” including home décor, bathroom, kitchen and auto accessories, toys, stationary, school supplies, hardware, apparel, baby goods, cleaning, pet and party supplies, seasonal items, cosmetics, gift wrap, snacks and drinks including milk and juice. No prepared food, alcohol or lottery tickets would be sold here.
The store would be laid out with aisles organized by departments, similar to a grocery store. The cash registers, shelving and a small portion of the refrigeration currently in place would stay, and there would be limited signage and product placement in the windows.
"We are trying to stay as close to the supermarket concept for the town, but without the perishables," Teller stated, explaining they were the Achilles' heel of the last tenant.
The three men own three other discount shops in North Bellmore, Bellerose and Cambria Heights. The first one opened more than 20 years ago.
“We don’t have any inventory in the aisles,” Marinelli said of the three existing stores. “You can walk through, you can almost take your shoes off in our stores. They are neat and organized, and that’s what separates us from a typical 99-cent store.”
As they passed around photos of their three other shops, they stressed that the merchandise carried at the Malverne store would be “more high-end,” catering to the village and its residents.
“If we were going to do a 99-cent store, we wouldn't come to Malverne … and that’s a compliment,” said Marinelli, who also owns two restaurants, including one in his hometown of Port Washington.
He said the stores would emulate Amazing Savings, which can be found throughout New York and New Jersey. Marinelli also assured residents that the store’s products would be ones customers know and trust – brands like Colgate, L’Oreal, Duracell, and Rubbermaid -- and the inventory would be consistent each time they visit. A manager would run the store under the supervision of Baig, who lives in Woodmere, and efforts would be made to hire village residents.
Residents expressed apprehension toward the concept, although atleast three women did support the idea, saying they missed the convenience of having a place within walking distance from their home to buy staples like milk, bread and laundry detergent. However, the appearance was a concern.
"It's a good idea for the village, but I think you have to listen .. we don't want it to look like a discount store," Diane McDermott said. "We are proud of our town."
One resident asked village officials what recourse would they have if the store did not live up to expectations. The business would have to comply with the village's codes, but as Trustee Jack O'Brien put it, "if our residents do not like the place, they are not going to come."
"The only way this is going to work is if we do whatever everybody likes," Marinelli added. "Without everybody's support, I'm going to give back the keys in six months and that's not what I want to do."
The board unanimously voted to reserve its decision on the matter, informing the landlord that she would be contacted in a reasonable amount of time with their answer.
What do you think of the Malverne General Store concept? Share your thoughts in the comment sections below.