Only eight months ago, Shepherd's Hall at Holy Name Church was full of some of the angriest people in the borough. On Thursday, it housed what must have been some of the happiest.
After months of negotiations, Walgreens announced Thursday its plans to lease one third of the store's roughly 14,149 square-feet to a supermarket—another Key Food—forging a partnership unprecedented in the drug store chain's history.
Thursday's packed community meeting was a celebration: Residents helped themselves to an impressive spread of meat, cheese, fruit and several types of sushi, an effort by Key Food to show residents that their demand for fresh food would, in the end, be met.
"This community came together, we fought, we generated petitions, issued press releases, held rallies," said Community Board 7's Ryan Lynch. "I’ve never seen anything like it. Without this community uproar, none of this would have ever happened."
Councilman Brad Lander lauded not just the community's efforts, but praised Walgreens for its willingness to compromise—not to mention foot the bill for the store's exterior construction.
"I find this significant at a very high level on both sides—on the side of the community’s serious organizing and working together…and for Walgreens to see that level of activism and decide to listen," he said.
Roughly two-thirds of the 14,149 square-foot lot will be dedicated to Walgreens, with the remaining third—around 6,000 square-feet—left to Key Food.
Key Food owner Joseph Zahriyeh, who helms several stores in Queens, said the limited space will not be a hindrance to operating a full-service supermarket.
"We are going to carry what a 30,000 square-foot store carries," he said, adding that the market will be fully stocked with fresh produce, a butcher, a deli, dairy products, and even a sushi bar.
The store will likely open in July or August. Construction will begin in March, reps said.
Walgreens intends to hire around 15 employees, while Key Food will hire between 35 and 40. Reps said that the 50 workers employed by the former Key Food will be prioritized when it comes time to hire store staff.
Leonora Stein, whose petition to boycott Walgreens garnered nearly 5,000 signatures, said she's happy with the outcome.
"I’m not necessarily going to congratulate Walgreens, although I do realize that it’s unique for a corporation to go outside the bounds of what they normally do," she said.
Stein added that though she will continue to patronize the neighborhood's independent pharmacies, her distaste for Walgreens has tempered.
"I don’t see that there’s a need for an actual boycott anymore," she said.