The “customer appreciation sale” at Williamsburg grocery store Tops on the Waterfront seems pretty awesome at first. Instead of just select items for sale, everything in the store–even the shopping carts–are 10 percent off.
But everything is for sale because Tops is closing its doors this month after 21 years in the neighborhood, pushed out, owner Yvonne Wong says, by large chain stores flocking to Williamsburg.
“It’s a variety of things,” Wong says about the closure. “For one, I want to retire. For another, there’s getting to be a lot of heavyweights in the neighborhood. Chains, and chains, and more chains are coming.”
“We’re an independently owned grocery store–or gourmet market, I would say–and heavy-duty people with big bucks are moving in, and that makes a big difference to a small independent retailer.”
Whole Foods is planning to open a location just two blocks away on North 4th Street and Bedford Avenue. Two blocks in the other direction, Brooklyn Harvest Market (part of a retail group that also owns nearby FoodTown) opened in April on North 6th Street and Kent Avenue.
Wong cited Whole Foods specifically, but it’s not the only one. “There’s a couple other big, huge chains coming and, in view of that, it just seems like the proper and right time for us to close our doors,” she says.
Tops on the Waterfront leases the space on North 6th; Wong says she has no idea if the building’s owners have plans for it.
Grocery chains are not the only ones looking to get in on the action in Williamsburg. Urban Outfitters is planning to open three-story megastore, complete with a restaurant, across the street from Tops’s location on North 6th. Earlier this month, Dunkin’ Donuts opened a location on Bedford Avenue.
The neighborhood is not rolling out the welcome mat, though. Locals have rallied against the proposed Urban Outfitters (those opponents claimed a minor victory when the retailer was denied a liquor license this month). And the banner trumpeting Dunkin’ Donuts’ arrival had only been up for a few hours before someone defaced it with the words, “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?”
Send story tips to the author, Tessa Stuart