Red Hookers rejoice: the neighborhood will once again be stocked with artisan cheeses and organic produce.
Hurricane Sandy pounded the massive and massively popular Fairway Market, leaving the community’s culinary anchor shuttered for months — but store officials now say they are on schedule for a March reopening.
“We’re making a lot of progress,” said Fairway CEO Howie Glickberg, who hopes to reopen in six weeks. “We will be working until the hour before we open the store.”
The floodwaters are long gone and most of the new refrigerator cases and new shelves are in place, but the nearly $10-million restoration still has a long way to go, said the grocery chain honcho.
“We still have to hook up all the refrigeration, we have to install all new kitchen equipment and all new showcases — a lot of plumbing, electrical and carpentry work still has to be done,” he said.
The Oct. 29 super storm slammed the gourmet chain at the foot of Van Brunt Street with a five-foot surge so vicious that it demolished anything it touched.
“[All that] was left after the flood were the walls,” said Glickberg. “Anything that was not five feet off the ground got wasted.”
The inundated grocery chain, famous for its fine cheeses, imported olive oils, and vast selection of gourmet goods, had to be gutted and continuously pumped with hot air in the days after the storm to dry out the doused floor and walls.
And much like the savvy proprietor behind Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies, the folks at Fairway decided to use the storm-related closure as an opportunity to come back better.
When Fairway reopens, shoppers will enjoy an expanded bakery section, wider aisles, and more outdoor seating, Glickberg said.
Red Hook business owners can’t wait for Fairway’s return, claiming its lengthy closure took a bite out of the economy in the storm-ravaged community.
“Without the Fairway here it’s been so quiet in the neighborhood,” said St. John Frizell, the owner of the Van Brunt Street cafe and bar Fort Defiance.
“It brought tons of foot and car traffic into the neighborhood,” said Frizell, who used to shop at the grocery store twice a week. “It’s the anchor at the end of Van Brunt Street and it changed the neighborhood for the better — it’s not the same without it.”
Fairway shoppers borough-wide are just as excited.
“It’s like a long lost relative is coming back,” said Fran Barris of Dyker Heights, who shopped at Fairway monthly before it closed, in part due to its big selection of gluten-free items.
Glickberg said that 70 additional Fairway employees will be hired for the reopening and that the store’s original 250 employees, who have been transferred to other Fairway stores, will return to the Red Hook location.
Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.