Fans of Ragtime Gourmet Supermarket in Howard Beach flocked to the Italian store’s Facebook page over the weekend to say their goodbyes after learning that the 53-year family-owned institution would close for good on Tuesday.
Suppliers came to the specialty grocery store located at 157-48 Cross Bay Blvd. on Nov. 6 to pick up old equipment and the owners confirmed the closing and later stayed locked inside the store together.
One co-owner who stepped out of Ragtime told QNS he found the closing “depressing” and that “there was simply too much competition.” He declined to give his name or speak further about the store’s demise.
Longtime local shopper, Edward Schnepf, posted on Facebook on Nov. 4 that it “was an end of an era!”
Despite his dismay, he wasn’t 100 percent surprised by the closure, because of the addition of big commercial chain stores to the area in recent years.
“There’s a Stop & Shop a few blocks away,” Schnepf said. “These big corporate stores are knocking out the little guy and it’s hard to compete with that.”
Like many local stores near Jamaica Bay, Hurricane Sandy also damaged Ragtime in 2012.
“It was trying to make a comeback,” Schnepf said. “It’s like watching somebody getting evicted from their house … it was a big part of the community.”
The grocery store was even a mainstay in his young adult years.
“We went to Ragtime before we went to the beach to get lunch or a snack,” said the Molloy High School and Queens College graduate. “It feels like a tough loss for the community and a tough loss for the family tradition.”
When he drove past the store for the first time in months on Sunday and saw signs that it was closing his heart dropped.
“I saw the signs there and I was shocked I didn’t want to believe it,” Schnepf said. “I can’t believe it’s going to be closed completely.”