By Dustin Brown
After failing six consecutive health inspections last year and being cited for rodent and cockroach infestation, the Trade Fair supermarket at 23-55 Broadway in Astoria has won an unenviable spot on the state Assembly’s list of the 10 Worst Supermarkets and Retail Stores for 2002.
But the supermarket passed its most recent inspection three months ago, and the manager now boasts it is the cleanest joint around.
“You can’t find it more clean than this, and I’ve been around,” said Victor Fuentes, who began managing the store a few months ago.
The state Assembly released last week its annual report citing the 10 worst supermarkets and retail food stores in the city, an assessment based on sanitary inspections for the past year.
The only other Queens store included on the list was the Winmark Supermarket at 42-19 Main St. in Flushing. The top 10 list does not list stores from best to worst.
“This is something that the Assembly does every year,” said state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), whose district includes the Trade Fair on Broadway. “What we’re trying to do is really shine the spotlight on some of the supermarkets that have a particularly bad cleanliness record.”
The store failed six consecutive state sanitary inspections between Jan. 23, 2001 and Jan. 3, 2002, during which time it was assessed four fines totaling $4,050.
One inspector who examined the store in January, April and June of last year found fresh mouse droppings in the basement, bird droppings in shopping carts, live flies, dead roaches and a cat in the basement, where food is stored.
Other inspections revealed deficiencies in food handling, such as cooked chickens not being kept hot enough, improper storage of food materials, employees handling food without hair restraints and the absence of thermometers in coolers.
On Oct. 10 of last year, inspectors found a fly strip in the deli area with dead flies stuck to it.
Trade Fair lost its food processing establishment license at a state Department of Agriculture and Markets hearing Oct. 22 of last year, which concluded in a report that the store “cannot maintain adequate sanitation.”
But the store’s license was renewed following a Jan. 4 re-inspection, and it passed an additional inspection Feb. 25.
Giving a brief tour of the store Tuesday morning, Fuentes pointed out the clean surfaces behind the deli counter and the tidy condition of the basement, where the floor is mopped every day.
“The only thing I can say is, the store’s very clean,” he said.
Indeed, the white-tile and polished-wood flooring around the store was so bright it gave a clear reflection of the overhead lighting, showing no sign of any refuse or dirt.
Customers who walked the store’s aisles Tuesday morning said they would not have expected the Trade Fair to receive such low marks because they are satisfied by its cleanliness.
“It really surprised me because it really looks clean from the outside,” said Angela Velasquez, 23, who lives about seven blocks away. “But I think most of the supermarkets are like that.”
Amy Robinson, a home health aide who works in the neighborhood, said her patients are happy with the quality of the groceries she purchases for them at the Trade Fair.
“Everything is always pretty good,” she said. “I have a picky patient and he checks everything.”
“I don’t see anything wrong with it,” said Jane Adams, 67, who has shopped at the store since October. “I like it.”
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.