The announcement by the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. Inc. (A&P) that it was closing 25 of its stores in New York and several other states next month was greeted by leaders of the kosher food industry as a “blow” but far from a disaster. Many of the stores to be closed were considered “kosher” stops by the industry, but officials believe that the losses from sales to these stores will be made up either by other retailers who will “fill the space” or by nearby competitors. Although A&P did not confirm the locations, Kosher Today has learned that amongst the stores to be closed is the Pathmark in Monsey, once considered one of the nation’s leading kosher stores (see our inspiring story on Kevin O’Brien). Other stores with considerable sales of kosher that are said to be on the list are the Waldbaum’s in Garden City and Levittown, the Pathmark stores in Marlboro, Fort Lee, North Bergen, and North Brunswick, all in New Jersey. Kosher Today has been unable to confirm rumors that another major retail chain would move into the vacated space in Monsey. In fact, local real estate agents said that the space was extremely expensive and wondered whether any new store could compete with such huge kosher independent stores as Rockland Kosher that appear to have a lock on the local kosher business.
Kosher industry sources say that the big winner will be ShopRite, which happens to have stores near the majority of the A&P locations to be closed. Unlike A&P, Wakefern, the parent company of ShopRite and many of the owners of ShopRite brand stores have invested a considerable amount of resources in their kosher program. The sources believe that many of the ShopRite stores will attract customers from the defunct stores. Some industry leaders were particularly sad about the closing of the Waldbaum’s stores, which at one time was considered the leading brand store in the Jewish community. Said one Long Island distributor: “I used to associate the face of Julia Waldbaum with Rosh Hashanah as her photo was on ads in Jewish periodicals wishing the Jewish community a happy new year. I also use to have a Waldbaum’s Jewish calendar on my wall.”