Little-box boom! Mini-Walmarts can open up all over the borough

Little-box boom! Mini-Walmarts can open up all over the borough
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Walmart grocery stores — scaled-down versions of the big-box behemoths that are currently under fire by many city lawmakers — could begin popping up all over the borough without city approval, allowing the retail giant to quickly set up shop at a corner near you.

The stores, called “Walmart Express,” are about five times the size of a 7-11, yet half the size of a Pathmark, and could fit nicely into 20 cozy, urban locations currently on the market in Brooklyn, including:

• W. Eighth Street between Neptune and Surf avenues in Coney Island

• Columbia Street near Ostego Street in Red Hook

• McDonald Avenue between Avenues O and P in Midwood

• Third Avenue at Sixth Street in Park Slope

• Seventh Avenue between 64th and 65th streets in Bay Ridge

• North Seventh Street at Meeker Avenue in Greenpoint

• Gold Street at Tillary Street in Downtown Brooklyn

• Church Avenue between Nostrand and Rogers Avenues in Flatbush

• Duffield Street between Willoughby Street and the Fulton Mall

Though few New Yorkers realize it, Walmart already controls about one-fifth of the nation’s more than $670-billion grocery market — all without the benefit of a store in New York City.

The prospect of having so many “grocery store” Walmarts has put some mom-and-pop store owners on edge.

“I don’t want [Walmart] anywhere near me,” said Moe Issa, the owner of Brooklyn Fare, a gourmet grocery at Hoyt and Schermerhorn streets in Downtown. “If they ever come into the Fulton Mall, forget it!”

But Walmart executives have said that such a shop is on the way.

“We know that job creation and access to affordable food are significant needs in Brooklyn and we think our stores can be part of the solution,” Walmart spokesman Steve Restivo said.

Walmart hasn’t yet committed to opening in Brooklyn, but continues to eye a large plot at the Gateway II site in East New York as a location for one of its standard big-box department stores.

The company has also lavished the borough with donations over the last two years, supporting the Brooklyn Public Library, the restoration of the nearby Gateway Salt Mash and Borough President Markowitz’s summer concert series.

As Walmart continues to court borough residents, labor-backed opponents continue to lash out against the Bentonville Behemoth for allegedly undercutting neighboring businesses and preventing its workers from unionizing.

“Walmart needs Brooklyn, but Brooklyn doesn’t need Walmart,” said Councilman Charles Barron (D–East New York). “We have enough people who do not have living jobs and adequate healthcare, and we have enough discrimination against women, blacks and Latinos, we have enough workers not able organize — and that is what Walmart brings.”

So far, other supermarket chains in Brooklyn don’t seem fazed by Walmart’s impending arrival.

“We don’t comment on our competitor’s plans,” said Marcy Connor, a spokeswoman for A&P, which runs the borough’s Pathmark, Waldbaum’s and Food Basics stores. “We remain focused on providing our Brooklyn customers with the fresh products and superior service they’ve come to expect.”

So far, other supermarket chains in Brooklyn are remaining mum about Walmart’s impending arrival. Requests for comment from Waldbaum’s, Pathmark and ShopRite about Walmart Express were not returned.

Walmart’s move into Brooklyn may not be such a hard sell: several polls — some of which the big box chain bankrolled — show that most Brooklynites would welcome a Walmart store.

Yet Walmart’s potential to move into strip malls like the shuttered Pathmark at the corner of Nostrand Avenue and Avenue Y in Sheepshead Bay, still doesn’t sit well with everyone.

“Walmart has not been here and we’ve done fine without it,” said Sheepshead Bay civic leader Steve Barrison, who is joining the search in finding a replacement supermarket for the closed Pathmark. “We need a supermarket that will complement other businesses.”

Others say Walmart could be a boon to the borough’s depleted job market hit hard by the recession. More than nine percent of borough residents are unemployed — much more than the rest of the state.

“If it means jobs, people may say yes,” noted Coney Island Community Board 13 District Manager Chuck Reichenthal.

Daniel Bush, Dan MacLeod, Aaron Short, Natalie O’Neill, Kate Briquelet and Eli Rosenberg contributed to this story.