As darkness fell on White Plains Road between Maran Place and Brady Avenue, shoppers clustered in front of the neighborhood’s newest business, an Associated Supermarket, to pick out bananas and pomegranates, tomatoes and tomatillos.
The supermarket opened in October. Already, proprietor Steve Zahrieh and his five brothers consider it a success.
“Our customers are happy,” Zahrieh said. “We’re happy. Even the other business owners] on the block are happy.”
The supermarket was scheduled to open in May but the Zahrieh brothers were mired in a name dispute. Originally, Zahrieh had a deal with Met Foods to franchise the spot; the brothers spent $1 million to renovate 2080 White Plains Road, a former party supplies store.
The deal crumbled when the proprietor of a Met Foods on White Plains Road and Allerton Avenue complained to corporate headquarters, Zahrieh said. The established grocer didn’t want another Met Foods close by. Phone calls to the proprietor of the Allerton Avenue Met Foods in July were not returned.
So the Zahrieh brothers turned to Associated. The change has worked out well, Zahrieh explained. Associated and Met Foods share the same wholesaler – White Rose. The nearest other Associated is on Westchester Avenue.
“We’re the only Associated in the neighborhood,” Zahrieh said. “There’s no confusion.”
Pelham Parkway South and Bronx Park East residents were impatient for the supermarket to open. The only established supermarket nearby is a Key Food on Lydig Avenue.
“Key Foods is expensive,” Wallace Avenue resident Nicholas More said. “Before, it was the only option. [The new Associated] is closer to me and cheaper.”
More bought limes and papayas at the supermarket on Thursday, December 3. Sagamore Street resident Ivory Williams grabbed a cut of beef chuck. Before the Associated opened, Williams would shop at the Third Avenue and E. 170th Street Food Bazaar or the Bruckner Plaza Pathmark.
“I would take a bus there and a cab back,” she said.
The 5,000-square foot Associated is small but cheaper than Key Foods, Williams added. The supermarket boasts porcelain floor tiles, chandelier fixtures, new checkout kiosks, new refrigerators and a new air conditioner, Zahrieh said. Its presence has increased foot traffic on White Plains Road.
“We get more people,” Café Colonial Restaurant manager Gino Quecada said.
Café Colonial sits on the corner of White Plains Road and Brady Avenue. Associated employees frequent the restaurant, Quecada said. The supermarket has hired 15 cashiers and stockers, Zahrieh said. Many are from the neighborhood; the cashiers speak English, Spanish and Albanian.
The Zahrieh brothers are from Brooklyn and operate a small Save Rite supermarket on Lydig Avenue. They hold a ten-year, a five-year and another five-year lease on White Plains Road and hope to expand. The Red Cross pink-slipped its Bronx staff in May and sits next door to the Associated.
“We want to stay here at least 20 years,” Zahrieh said. “We want to pass the business on to our kids.”
Bronx Park East resident James King, out with his daughter Catherine, praised the brothers.
“I’m real happy for them,” King said.
Reach reporter Daniel Beekman at 718 742-3383 or firstname.lastname@example.org