Rosendalers, rejoice: You don’t have to drive all the way to Kingston or New Paltz for a load of groceries anymore. Your town actually has a full-service food retailer again, in the space formerly housing the Associated Supermarket in the Fann’s Plaza on Route 32. But this time it’s clean, bright and refurbished, its shelves well-stocked with goodies.
“This is what we want!” says Lucille Borthwick, who lives within walking distance of the new My Town Marketplace. “We’re very happy to have the store. And the manager is always so personable and willing to help.”
That manager, Albert Rodriguez, seems a bit abashed by Borthwick’s praise as he takes this New Paltz Times reporter on a tour of the new supermarket, but he’s clearly proud of the work that has gone into fixing the place up. He points out the new automatic entrances, the floor-to-ceiling windows flooding the front of the space with light, brand-new counters and shelving and produce bins, the big new walk-in cooler that is used to store produce and will soon also become the beer department featuring craft beers and microbrews.
Customers who remember the previous incarnation of the store, which opened in July 2012 and went out of business within less than a year, may be impressed to see sturdy-looking new flooring where there once were holes in the floor. “You can’t do things halfway,” says Rodriguez, who estimates that he has invested somewhere between $150,000 and $200,000 into renovating the space. “You can’t have holes in the ground next to the deli, with the pipes exposed. The previous owners did construction and then never closed it up. You have to have a clean store!”
Rodriguez already has a track record of running small supermarkets successfully, first partnering with a friend in Connecticut and then opening the first My Town Marketplace with his wife, Lisa Berrios, in Highland Falls in September 2011. That store was established with the help of grant funding from the Low Income Investment Fund (LIFF)’s Healthy Food Healthy Communities program, whose mission is to build or expand healthy food outlets in underserved communities, sometimes known as “food deserts” for their lack of access to such essentials of a good diet as fresh produce.
“We’d lived in that town for seven or eight years, and we saw the store, which was a Grand Union and then a Key Foods, having problems,” he recalls. “Then the store closed. So we started trying to find out how to reopen it….It took 20 or 25 minutes to get to any store.” Luckily, LIFF, a public/private partnership, was “really aggressively going after supermarkets for a while,” and awarded the seed money to get the couple started on their new venture.
While noting that running a grocery store is a “difficult business” due to the low margins, Rodriguez says that the Highland Falls store quickly found its niche. “Thank God we’re doing well,” he says. “I was looking around for other stores, and this seems like the perfect opportunity to do good.” The couple splits oversight of the two supermarkets, and are currently looking for a new place to live somewhere in between the sites. “My wife’s at the other store; I’m here, mostly.”
While the shelves, counters and displays at My Town Marketplace in Rosendale are brimming with appealing-looking products, parts of the new retail establishment are not quite finished. A brand-new refrigerated unit in the rear of the store only held a small quantity of artisan cheeses on the day of the Times’s visit; Rodriguez promises that it will soon hold a wider selection of cheeses as well as fresh pastas and cakes. A deli counter, well-stocked with Boar’s Head and Best Yet 1893 private label cold cuts, will make you a fresh sandwich, and on weekdays — soon to expand to weekends — also serves hot entrées. There’s a shiny new rotisserie churning out barbecued chickens, and a display of salads that are “mostly store-made,” according to Rodriguez.
Strolling the aisles, one notices plenty of high-end specialty items in addition to the usual supermarket staples, and there’s an emphasis on locally sourced produce and other foods, such as sweet corn from Saunderskill Farm in Accord and yogurt and milk from the Hudson Valley Fresh dairy consortium. Though there is no in-store bakery, you can get loose rolls and specialty breads from Deising’s Bakery in Kingston and Tommy C’s Deli in New Paltz, as well as authentic New York-style Italian loaves from Terranova Bread in the Bronx. There’s a whole freezer full of Carvel ice cream specialties. An in-house butcher can provide custom-cut meats, and the displays of fresh produce and other products feature many hard-to-find ethnic cuisine ingredients. And it’s not just recent immigrants who are buying them, says Rodriguez: “Everybody is trying all these different things these days, what with the Cooking Channel being so successful.”
In a move so brilliant that one wonders why other stores haven’t tried it before, the entrepreneur is displaying specialty and health food items on the same shelves as other, more mainstream products of the same type, instead of lumping all the organic items together in a separate department. “We try to integrate them throughout the store,” Rodriguez says, pointing out the gluten-free pastas shelved alongside the regular pastas.
In addition to groceries, My Town Marketplace offers an ATM, an ice machine and carpet cleaning machine rentals. Lottery tickets will also be available very soon, promises Rodriguez.
Will the new owners’ innovations draw Rosendalers back to a dramatically spruced-up store in this beleaguered location? Only time will tell. “We’ve only been here a month. We’re still trying to feel out what works or doesn’t work. It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon. It takes time to change people’s shopping habits,” says Rodriguez. But in the short run, “It seems like everyone’s really pleased.”
My Town Marketplace, located at 1132 Route 32, is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Customers are encouraged to phone the store at (845) 658-3663 if they have any questions, and sales flyers and lunch menus can be accessed on the stores’ Facebook page. Look for a Grand Opening event to be announced very soon; according to Rodriguez, “We’re shooting for September.”