Family-owned Key Food remains committed to serving Astoria community despite its uncertain fate

File photo courtesy of Key Food Astoria

Key Food Astoria — the family-owned store that’s being pushed out to make room for a Target — is committed to serving the Astoria community by increasing its inventory during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We take the needs of the communities our stores serve seriously, and the needs during this pandemic are no different,” said Angela Stefanidis, the manager of the Key Food. “Key Food has been feeding Astoria families like my own for over 40 years, and we will continue to serve them until we all get through this, and for many years to come. We’re contacting our distributors every few hours and letting them know which products our community needs the most, and we’ve been using supplemental suppliers when needed.”

According to Key Food Astoria — located on 22-15 31st St. — nearly 100 of their employees, who are members of UFCW Local 1500 union, have been working around the clock to take stock of what food items are being purchased the most to prevent shortages through “proactive ordering.”

Store management has been closing at 8 p.m. to do a deep cleaning of the store each night, and opening at 6:30 a.m. each morning for a senior-shopping hour, which runs until 7:30 a.m.

Man-Dell Foods, the owner of Key Food Astoria, has been paying employees 10 percent above their regular rate since last week and will do so until May 2.

“Our members throughout the city are signing up for extra, and overnight shifts to make sure our stores are stocked, clean, and ready to serve the communities they are in,” said Robert W. Newell Jr., president of UFCW Local 1500. “We’re extremely proud of our members every day for the work they do, but especially during critical times like these. I just hope all the communities never forget what our members did when this crisis is over. Our members have always been and will always be a staple in their communities.”

Photo courtesy of Key Food Astoria

Astoria’s elected officials rallied to save Key Food Astoria in May 2019, after the building’s landlord, Jenel Management, filed demolition permits for the property in order to build a three-story Target at the site.

“Target is not only trying to open one but two stores in my district, attempting to essentially whitewash and do away [with] mom-and-pop shops, including a Key Food supermarket that our neighborhood has depended on for decades,” state Senator Jessica Ramos said in May.

The store’s ownership and employees continue to rally to save the food store, as its lease is set to expire at the end of October. They maintain that their landlord hasn’t offered lease terms that will allow Key Food Astoria to return after the lease is up.

Councilman Costa Constantinides thanked Key Food Astoria for their service during the coronavirus crisis.

“This pandemic will have serious implications on our local economy, at a time when small businesses in Astoria are already experiencing closures at an unprecedented rate,” Constantinides stated. “Small businesses that are stepping up during this crisis are precisely the neighbors we need, and I thank Key Food for keeping Astorians fed during this time.”

Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas thanked the grocery store for giving the community stability during this time.

“Big-box stores throughout the city have closed, leaving communities without resources, but our small businesses have stepped up where the nationwide chains have failed,” Simotas said. “Thank you to our neighborhood supermarkets like Key Food Astoria and the union workers it employs who are staying open to give our community stability during a time of uncertainty.”

Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris commended the store for raising their workers’ regular hourly pay.

“Supermarket workers are stepping up to serve our communities and provide an essential service during this crisis. The workers at Key Food Astoria are our neighbors and friends, continuing to work each day to make sure families are being fed,” Gianaris said. “This family-owned store has committed to compensating workers by raising their regular hourly pay 10 percent during this pandemic, standing by their workers through difficult times. They all deserve our thanks.”