Controversy erupted at the corner of Eastchester Road and Mace Avenue last spring when neighbors caught wind of Applebaum Realty’s plans to replace supermarket Met Foods with chain drugstore Walgreens.
Nearly a year later, Walgreens has occupied 2504 Eastchester Road and Battaglia’s Meat Market has filled the grocery void.
Walgreens’ renovation of the supermarket is on schedule. According to spokesman Robert Elsinger, the drugstore will open this spring or early summer. It will include a dry groceries aisle, pharmacy and photo counter.
Walgreens, the world’s largest drugstore chain, has gutted Met Foods, Community Board 11 member Vinny Prezioso said. A repaved parking lot will accommodate more cars.
“Nothing against Walgreens, but I hate to see all these drugstores going up,” Prezioso said. “I guess that’s the trend.”
Rite Aid drugstores sit one block south and three blocks north. Duane Reade has broken ground on Gun Hill Road.
Last summer, it was Battaglia’s to the rescue, as the 35-year old market doubled in size, swallowing Carousel Shoes. Battaglia’s has added fruits, vegetables and dairy to its repertoire.
“Business is picking up,” Frank Battaglia Jr. said. “We stock the best meat. Our vegetable department is doing well. We don’t carry every cookie, but we carry everything you really want.”
Battalgia’s has reached out to neighborhood seniors; the market now offers store-to-door delivery. According to Frank Jr., a growing number of seniors order groceries every day.
“We carry chips, flours, sugars, seltzer, canned goods, 30 cuts of pasta, tomato sauce, imported Italian goods,” he said. “If we don’t carry an item, tell us. We’ll have it on the shelf in a week.”
Prezioso is pleased with Battalgia’s transformation.
“We don’t need Met Foods anymore,” he said. “We have Battaglia’s. My seniors are happy. Of course the store is still much smaller than Met Foods. But it’s a tremendous little market. You could never get down the aisle at Met Foods either.”
Rumors had Walgreens taking a nosedive. In this economy. anything’s possible. After all, Circuit City lasted half a year on Gun Hill Road. But Walgreens boasted a 6.6 percent increase in sales from October to December 2008.
“I think people are happy with Battaglia’s,” Gene Tutora of the Chester Civic Improvement Association said.
Local senior Mary DeMasi can’t wait for Walgreens to open. She’s not a fan of Rite Aid’s pharmacy.
“Battaglia’s has been fantastic,” DeMasi said. “We seniors don’t drive, we walk. Battaglia’s has most everything we need.”