Questions linger about fate of New Paltz Stop & Shop

The Stop and Shop supermarket in New Paltz. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

The Stop and Shop supermarket in New Paltz. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

News that the New Paltz Stop & Shop is likely to be sold as a result of the merger of its parent company with the one that owns the Hannaford chain has raised a lot of concerns. The supermarket has become a part of the economic fiber of the community, both by adding choice for consumers and by providing union jobs. Longer-term residents might recall the empty husk of Ames which stood at that location before the Stop & Shop was built, and fear another derelict structure.

Michael Mazzola is representative of some of those concerns. The 75-year-old retiree has lived in New Paltz since 1969, and he’s worried that the golden age of supermarkets may be coming to a close. “We finally got a decent market,” he said, and he’d hate to lose it. “Our ShopRite is the poorest relation in that chain.” After hearing from Stop & Shop employees that they’d been advised the store was closing in three months, Mazzola did some digging on his own. He confirmed that Royal Ahold NV, a Dutch corporation, and the Belgian Delhaize Group, which own the Stop & Shop and Hannaford stores, are indeed in the process of merging. “I love that these foreigners can come in here and close down the only really great market in the area.”


Mazzola said he’s reached out to several elected officials and newspapers about his concerns. That would come as no surprise to New Paltz Town Supervisor Neil Bettez, who said he was first contacted “by someone afraid they were going to lose their job.” There’s been a slew of emails since, from employees, customers of the store, and people who concerned about the economic impact should the supermarket simply be closed.

Bettez, the state’s first Working Families Party town supervisor, was able only to get limited information about the highly secretive process of negotiating with the Federal Trade Commission. What he found out came through the offices of the Kempner Group, the corporate landlord for the entire plaza Stop & Shop anchors. From that conversation, he was left with the understanding that the lease would definitely be sold to another supermarket chain, rather than the store being abandoned. “The FTC decides,” he said, but it’s clear to him that, “Hannaford can’t just open up there,” because it’s so close to the Modena and Highland locations.

That lack of local control is part of what frustrates Mazzola. “Us little guys, we don’t count no more,” he said. “Makes you rethink everything that’s been going on. Pointing to the fact that it’s two European corporations merging, he said he’s reconsidering his past support for such political candidates as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. “All the jobs are going overseas,” he said.

Congressman Chris Gibson was one of the elected officials Mazzola contacted, and the only one to respond to him by press time. Gibson staffer Nick Czajka said, “We have received about a dozen constituent emails, phone calls, and letters on this issue,” and provided a copy of a letter the congressman sent to the federal trade commissioners. New Paltz is one of three Stop & Shop stores in the 19th congressional district in similar straits.

In that letter, Gibson wrote, “I respectfully ask that you work with the companies, employees, unions, and communities impacted . . . in order to minimize any impact on local communities and economies. Specifically, I ask that, as the companies pursue credible, willing, and able buyer(s) for these stores, any such agreement takes into consideration and recognizes union membership, length of service, and net area employment in order to ensure a smooth transition and minimize any detrimental effects of the merger.”

“I understand it’s not a done deal,” said Bettez, but that it hinges on the number of Hannaford stores in the area, and how many might be considered too many.

“I’ll buy that,” said Mazzola. “The FTC doesn’t want them to have too many stores in one area, a monopoly.” Watching the various markets that have tried to serve his needs over the past half-century, however, he’s skeptical he will ever see the quality he believes Stop & Shop has offered since it opened here.

While the process is quite secretive — even Gibson acknowledged that there’s a lot FTC commissioners simply won’t tell him — Bettez is confident in his understanding that there will be a supermarket operating at that location once the metaphorical dust settles. “I asked if I should contact anyone, but that’s not a process for me to get involved in,” the supervisor said. Like everyone else in New Paltz, for now he’s going to have to sit tight and hope for the best.


There are 4 comments

  1. Loved NPZ

    The Stop & Shop is the best supermarket in this area. And NO – Modena and Highland are NOT CLOSE OR CONVENIENT; so that “overlap” statement is just bull. Shop Rite is a dump and the only other choice – which I use as regularly as Stop & Shop is the health food store – but they can’t provide 75% of what I buy at the grocery store. Sit and wait, and let’s hope for the best are not good options. Another reason why this resident has been considering time to move on to a town that is thriving more…

  2. Paul E. Hacker

    When I first heard of the situation re the FTC making A-Hold and its partner company shut down a number of Stop & Shop stores due to the purchase of Hannaford, I was dazed and confused. I began asking questions such as “why does the FTC intervene with supermarket mergers but allows huge insurance companies (Anthem BCBS buys Cigna, Aetna buys Humana, MVP Healthcare buys Hudson Health Plans) and bank mergers (too many to list post bailout)??? I guess the FTC is more concerned regulating the price of a box of Cheerios than a hospital stay!!!
    It does not make sense to me because I am an Employee Benefits Advisor that helps small to large companies evaluate their benefits costs and implement more cost effective solutions including self- funding. I see what hospitals and providers charge for simple blood tests and more sophisticated tests/procedures such as MRIs/CT Scans. It’s amazing how much hospitals and providers mark up their actual costs to provide the service. At times, it can be greater than 500% more than their costs. If this is the case, why wouldn’t the FTC focus on this market segment rather than telling supermarket owners to shut down certain stores???
    I think before the New Paltz Stop & Shop store shuts down, the Town Board seriously evaluates the negative economic effects this will have on their community. I am assuming many of the Stop & Shop employees live in New Paltz, Highland, Gardiner, Walkill, and maybe Poughkeepsie. I am assuming a number of the employees go to college locally (SUNY New Paltz, HV Community College, Bard, Marist). These students depend on a paycheck to go to college..maybe not to pay the entire tuition, but maybe a portion. They use their paycheck to buy food, books, and buy from other stores/restaurants/vendors in New Paltz. They contribute to the success of New Paltz and to Ulster County. In a few months, think about how many stores and municipalities will be negatively impacted financially when there is a mass exodus of people leaving the area to go elsewhere for work and school ?It’s a pretty scary situation.

    If Stop & Shop in New Paltz will have to shut down, I encourage the politicians, economic leaders and the Town Board to start wooing other super market chains such as Price Chopper, Wegmans, or ALDI to fill the economic void. Having Shop-Rite as the only option supermarket wise in New Paltz is not the solution. Competition is good. I don’t want to be spending $6 for my box of Cheerios at Shop-Rite starting on July, 1, 2016. I would rather go to another store locally and pay $3.99 for the same box of Cheerios.

  3. David

    What I don’t get are the signs at the entrance saying they need employees for the summer, when supposedly the store will be closing. While I like being in the New Paltz Stop n Shop, as opposed to the relatively claustrophobic NP Shop Rite, the prices in Shop Rite are less. I live closer to Kingston, and the Kingston Shop Rite is larger. Speaking of supermarket chains and consumer reports, both Shop Rite, and Stop and Shop, are nowhere near the top in their ratings. I hope some quality food store does occupy what I fear could be an empty shell, as there’s no way that Shop Rite can handle twice as many customers in its current state.

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