by Ayala Ben-Yehuda
And now the moment Little Neck and Douglaston residents have been waiting for: Stop & Shop was set to open its doors in Little Neck at 6 a.m. Thursday.
For the first time in more than two years, residents of these communities will be able to go to the full-service supermarket at Northern Boulevard and Marathon Parkway instead of traveling to Great Neck or Bayside to get fresh produce, meat, baked goods and flowers under one roof.
“We’re very happy to see that Stop & Shop has elected to move into our neighborhood and has finally opened up,” said Mark Duma, chairman of the Little Neck Pines Association, which campaigned hard to bring the supermarket to the area.
“We feel it took them a very long time, but either way it’s better late than never,” Duma said.
Stop & Shop agreed last April to move into the 19,000-square-foot space, which had been vacant since the Grand Union supermarket it housed closed in October 2000 due to bankruptcy.
Stop & Shop had been slated to open last fall, but construction delays pushed back its scheduled opening to Thursday.
The Boston-based company repaved the parking lot in front of the store and made improvements to lighting, shelf space and flooring, spokesman Gary Lewi said.
A job fair was held around the new year to fill 100 positions at the new location. Lewi said the store was fully staffed, although he was not sure how many people had been hired.
Now that Stop & Shop’s opening is imminent, civic leaders are rejoicing.
“It’s a good thing,” said Eliott Socci, president of the Douglaston Civic Association. “There are many people in the community who really can’t travel all that far and need something like that in the immediate vicinity.”
Socci said another bonus for consumers, aside from convenience, is competition. He said many residents of Little Neck and Douglaston, who have been going to Waldbaum’s locations in Great Neck, Bayside and Douglaston Plaza, would now have new options and Waldbaum’s had begun to offer triple coupons.
The new Stop & Shop will be open from 6 a.m. to midnight seven days a week and features a bakery, seafood station and floral section in addition to produce and meat departments and pet and office supplies.
A pre-opening reception was scheduled to take place Wednesday evening with a host of community leaders on the guest list, including members of Community Board 11 and local civic associations, state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) and Borough President Helen Marshall.
Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 146.