Foodservice

Village Moratorium Puts Stewart’s Shops’ Plan to Fill Void of Closing Grocer on Hold

Marcellus, New York, adopts 6-month stoppage on new commercial development, including proposed convenience store
Stewart's Shop store
Photograph: Shutterstock

Convenience-store retailer Stewart’s Shops’ plan to fill the void of a soon-to-be-closed supermarket in Marcellus, New York, are on hold due to the village last week imposing a six-month moratorium on new developments.

Nojaim Brothers grocery store is closing this spring after more than four decades in business, and Stewart’s Shops has plans to buy and demolish the old property and build a new structure of 4,300 square feet, Robin Cooper, public relations manager for the convenience-store chain, told CSP. A regular Stewart’s Shops is about 4,000 square feet. The project would take about 10 weeks.

If approved, this won’t be the first time Ballston Spa, New York-based Stewart’s Shops has added a grocery section in an area losing a supermarket. Cooper said Stewart’s Shops started doing this about five years ago.

The village, a suburb of Syracuse, recently updated its comprehensive plan and zoning guidelines and implemented the moratorium to give itself more time before taking on any new commercial development in the village center, Cooper said.

“It grinds everything to a halt,” said Cooper, who said Stewart’s Shops is re-evaluating its options but not giving up. “It’s a market we really want to be in,” he said.

  • Stewart's Shops is No. 23 on CSP’s 2023 Top 202 ranking of U.S. c-store chains by number of company-owned retail outlets.

Cooper said this doesn’t alter Stewart’s Shops interest in being in the market. “We’re going to see what happens,” he said. “We’re basically re-evaluating our plans.”

The main complaint, according to Syracuse.com, is the plan to add gas pumps to the location, pumps that opponents say would destroy the village’s character and aren’t needed.

Marcellus Mayor John “Jack” Murphy told the website, “Why do we need them [pumps]? We have a gas station on the north end of the town and another nearby on Lee Mulroy Road.”

The Marcellus village board posted on its website a letter to residents aiming to clear up “many misunderstandings and inaccuracies resulting from last evening’s (2/21) meeting.”

“The moratorium is not to stop the opening of Stewart’s Shops in the village,” the letter reads. “The moratorium will pause the process in order to look at every facet of this situation, ascertain all possible issues and complications and work to effectively address them, taking into account all Village resident’s concerns.

“While there is a very vocal group calling for the immediate approval of Stewart’s to take over the space vacated by Nojaim’s, there are also village residents reaching out to the village board with legitimate questions and concerns about this change. This moratorium is not written in stone and can be lifted at any time as this transition unfolds and concerns arise and are resolved.

The letter acknowledges this being an “emotional” issue: “Nojaim’s will be greatly missed by everyone, and we all know of Rich Nojaim’s benevolence towards the Marcellus community.”

The village board said it has no plans to stop progress, but that its primary responsibility is the village’s future and “to usher in the next step with thoughtfulness.” 

“No one, contrary to word on the street, desires Rich Nojaim to be unable to retire,” the letter continues. “Period.What we are looking for is a win/win situation for all parties--the business owners, the taxpayers of the village, and residents of the town who shop in the village. That is also keeping in mind the future progress of the village. This change will be long lasting and will impact so many levels of village life. We endeavor to make sure this is done in the most thorough and informed manner for residents and their families.

The board said it’s asking for residents to let the process work to ensure a successful resolution: The moratorium, while not conducive to Nojaim’s and Stewart’s timeline, offers the opportunity for the village board and its advisors to hear and understand all stakeholders’ concerns, and be part of ensuring the Marcellus experience endures for everyone.

Founded in 1945, Stewart’s Shops is an employee- and family-owned convenience-store chain known for its milk, ice cream, coffee, Easy Food meals and other convenience items. There are 357 Stewart’s Shops in upstate New York and southern Vermont.

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