Big Difference: Two Years Ago, Foodtown Grand Opening Made It Official


February 1st, 2020, Foodtown’s Grand Opening announcement answered the long held wishes of Roosevelt Island residents. The much criticized Gristedes supermarket, along with the reviled John Catsimatidis, were out. The truth differed from the appearance, but that went mostly unnoticed.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

This made it official.

The Foodtown Grand Opening Meant Gristedes Was Gone – Or Did It?

Distaste for the Roosevelt Island Gristedes ran so deep that the supermarket made a Reddit list of New York City stores people said they would never use a second time. One woman made her decision not to move to Roosevelt Island after visiting the only supermarket. Another wondered why every Gristedes smelled like cat food.

In the New York Times, an editorial, commenting on Catsimatidis’s bid for mayor, said he couldn’t be trusted for cleaning up New York until he figured out how to clean up his stores.

But local criticism was worse. Roosevelt Islanders complained for decades about stale meats, stock on shelves far past sell by dates and marked prices suddenly higher when you reached the checkout. All that would be gone now, and it was – except for Catsimatidis.

Was Foodtown really a game-changer?

Most Roosevelt Islanders were so thrilled over seeing Gristedes gone, they didn’t notice that Foodtown had not been a grocery chain for years. Foodtown was a branding operation, and the name change was part of a makeover.

Gristedes’s owner, the Red Apple Group, never left, but to their credit, they swept out the bad, replacing it with the new. For all day-to-day purposes, the Foodtown grand opening converted a Gristedes into a D’Agostino market. Red Apple had successfully done similar switches during the previous year.

Although the D’Agostino name never came up, the much admired New York City chain was a core element in bring Roosevelt Island the quality market residents deserved. D’Agostino managers worked closely with Red Apple, and positive results remain in place.

My favorite memory…

As the grand opening date approached, a D’Agostino representative told me that Catsimatidis planned on attending, showing his support. In a nanosecond, I advised against that. Roosevelt Islanders were thrilled at seeing him gone, not eager for his endorsement for change. That act had gotten a little old by now.

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