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Mar 4, 2009 11:47 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Some shoppers are upset with plans for Westhampton Beach Waldbaum's

Mar 4, 2009 11:47 AM

Waldbaum’s officials plan to install a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at their Westhampton Beach supermarket, a move that has upset some local shoppers who have been waiting two years for the supermarket chain to renovate the Sunset Avenue store.

Planning Board Chairman Ralph Neubauer said that representatives from the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, the corporation in Montvale, New Jersey that owns Waldbaum’s, submitted an application to his board about six weeks ago requesting a site plan waiver to install a new HVAC system. Mr. Neubauer said he expects the waiver to be approved at the March 12 Planning Board meeting.

The request for a new HVAC system has brought the community’s negative feelings about the store to the surface again.

“This is putting a Band-Aid on a waterfall,” said Westhampton Beach Village Board member Toni-Jo Birk, who said the condition of the supermarket is shameful.

She said she doubts if Waldbaum’s officials will ever move forward with their plans, approved more than two years ago by the village, to renovate the interior and exterior of the store, citing the economic crisis.

In 2007, Waldbaum’s received site plan approval and building permits from the village to renovate the Sunset Avenue store. Citing financial issues, company officials never moved forward with those plans. That plan called for increasing the size of the supermarket by about 5,000 square feet by taking over adjoining space formerly occupied by National’s, and renovating the exterior of the supermarket, including the parking lot.

“We’ve got the worst one around,” Mr. Neubauer said about the Sunset Avenue store, adding that the supermarkets on Jagger Lane in Southampton Village and Route 58 in Riverhead are in much better condition.

At recent Planning Board meetings and work sessions, village officials have pressed David O’Sullivan, the director of site planning for the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, who presented the HVAC plans, for answers about whether or not the company plans to revisit its original plan to expand and renovate the supermarket. According to minutes from the board’s February 12 meeting, Mr. O’Sullivan stated that the company had allocated funds to “start working on the project.” Mr. O’Sullivan also offered to sit down with the village and discuss renovation plans.

Officials with the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company did not return calls seeking comment this week.

Attorneys with the Weber Law Group in Melville, who are representing the corporation in its application now before the Planning Board, said they could not disclose any plans for the Sunset Avenue store. They said they did not receive permission from Mr. O’Sullivan to discuss the plans.

Mr. Neubauer said that company workers last week removed the plastic that was hanging in the windows of the old National’s store, and did some other basic housekeeping. He said that that work was done at the insistence of the Planning Board, Ms. Birk and fellow Village Board member Hank Tucker.

Mr. O’Sullivan, who could not be reached for comment, has not yet met with village officials to discuss the status of his company’s plans to renovate the Sunset Avenue supermarket.

Ms. Birk, meanwhile, is urging village residents who are unhappy with the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company to boycott the Waldbaum’s and do their grocery shopping elsewhere.

“Let all their perishables rot, then maybe they’ll do something,” Ms. Birk said. “Hit them where it hurts.”

Mr. Tucker thinks company representatives are willing to listen to the concerns of village residents. He added that he called the corporation last week, but officials could offer no new information about the renovations.

“It’s up to the residents to come out and show the company how they feel about it,” Mr. Tucker said.

The new HVAC unit, meanwhile, should be installed as soon as the snow melts, according to Mr. Neubauer. He said the new unit will be installed on the roof of Waldbaum’s and will not be visible from Sunset Avenue. The unit will be slightly visible from Glovers Lane.

“It’s no worse than the temporary units they’ve got up there now,” Mr. Neubauer added.

He also explained that the corporation needs only a site plan waiver to install the new HVAC units because the work is considered minor.

Ms. Birk said the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company has done little with the space previously occupied by the old National’s store, which closed in 2003. She added that the rent for the space—$22,000 per month—is outrageous.

“At $22,000, you’re not going to get anyone in,” said Ms. Birk, adding that officials in the company’s real estate division provided her with the figures. “It’s over $200,000 just for the year.”

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I've shopped that H&@*hole of a grocery store exactly three times in the last year, even though I live less than 1 mile away. It's well worth the trip to Riverhead to buy frozen foods WITHOUT ice crystals all over them, as well as fresh produce and milk that is actually within its expiration date - such a concept.

The Westhampton Beach Waldaum's needs a wrecking ball . . . but why would they bother to invest in the physical plant when so many people continue to tolerate the situation and ...more
By barnbabe (64), westhampton beach on Mar 3, 09 6:36 PM
Who needs residents opinion??????? Look at the place!! You can hardly fit two carriages in the aisles, the meat department smells like dead meat, just about all the produce in the department is shriveled up, the tiles are coming up off the floor and theres soooooo much ice on the ice cream containers that i don 't know what flavor it is. I get frostbite just wiping the ice off and all they want to do is replace the HVAC system. I'm sure people will be flocking in from all over to use this store ...more
By Bopche (8), Quogue on Mar 4, 09 12:38 PM
I was meaning the Waldbaums in Riverhead.
By Bopche (8), Quogue on Mar 4, 09 12:39 PM
The $20K rent for the empty space allows GA & Tea Co. a great tax write-off as long as it remains vacant. This is common here in the Hamptons. It does not matter if the economy is good or bad - the write-off is still there. Why should they fix it up or rent it?
By G (342), Southampton on Mar 6, 09 10:15 PM
dont you guys think that a@p (waldbaums)dose not care what you guys think about the store and how they keep the things inside the store and the money you spend their i think they only care about the summer people thats when they make the money if you guys really care about the store closeing why dont you call the health inspector and tell him about the black mole growing in the store but thats only one of many things wrong with that store if you go down isles 2,3,and4 and you jump the isles shake ...more
By johpem1313 (1), west hampton on Apr 5, 09 1:23 AM