Sandy Ends C-Town’s Four-Decade Run

Key Food leases spot, may open in spring

C-Town closed due to the damage from Hurricane Sandy. The supermarket enjoyed a four-decade run in the West End. (Credit: Joseph Kellard)
C-Town closed due to the damage from Hurricane Sandy. The supermarket enjoyed a four-decade run in the West End. (Credit: Joseph Kellard)
Story by Jeff Lipton

Only a superstorm could end C-Town supermarket’s 43-year run in the West End.

C-Town, which has set up shop at 1080 West Beech St. since 1969, was permanently shut down by Hurricane Sandy, when almost three feet of water rushed in and destroyed most everything.

Brothers and co-owners Rob and Barry Koff determined that it would have cost them close to $1 million to rebuild the heavily damaged supermarket, and their insurance would not even cover half of that.

“That means we would be in excess of $500,000 in debt and at this stage of life we were not prepared to do that,” said Rob Koff, 55. “We got knocked out by Hurricane Sandy.”

As a result, Key Food signed a deal to purchase the 6,000-square-foot business on Jan. 17, said Koff, who could not reveal terms of the agreement. He said Key Food is leasing the location from the Koffs with an option to buy it later on.

The new owner, Mike Hassin, is making a huge investment in the shop, Koff said, which indicates he may be inclined to purchase the property. Key Food is expected to open in late April or early May if all the city approvals go through.

Another Key Food, under a different owner, recently opened in the East End, at the former Associated.

Koff, who lives in Lido Beach, said the move has been bittersweet for him. The Koffs’ father, Irwin, built the business from the ground up in 1969 and he created the first C-Town. Rob joined the business in 1979 and his brother, two years later.

Hard work kept the supermarket thriving, with a loyal customer base that helped it through some rough times such as the recent recession.

“I knew so many great people who came in every day,” Koff said. “I knew them on a first-name basis. They became my friends and then I got to know their kids and grandkids. I’ve seen their families grow up. That’s the part I’m going to miss the most.”

During Sandy, it was the first time the store had flooded since it opened. “It destroyed everything from the floor to three feet up,” said Koff. “It destroyed every single showcase, as well as the electric [system].

“I feel horrible for a lot of my employees who were put out of work, myself included,” he added.   He is confident that Long Beach will bounce back from the devastating storm. “This is a great community and Long Beach is going to come back better than ever in the near future,” he said.

Koff said 1080 W. Beech St. is a prime location for a supermarket and the new owner of Key Food has designs to make it a great place for families to buy their groceries.

“The community wins because he is going to make the place absolutely premium,” Koff said. “He owns several other stores in Westchester and Brooklyn, so he knows what he’s doing. It should make everyone happy.”

Scott Kemins, the City of Long Beach’s buildings commissioner, said that about a month ago Key Food’s architect met with city officials about its plans, but the paperwork has not yet been submitted. He said if the plans are in order, it’s within reason for the new supermarket to open in the spring.

“It depends on the contractors and how quickly they work on it,” he said.
Since C-Town was the lone supermarket in the West End, Kemins said, residents greatly depended on it.

“People could walk there and did not have to move their car in the summer months,” Kemins said. “People from Atlantic Beach also shopped there. A supermarket is definitely needed there.”

Immediately after the storm, the Koffs donated all of C-Town’s produce that was not touched by Sandy to the National Guard. More recently, they donated 250 to 300 cases of assorted items, including canned goods, pastas and paper products to the Martin Luther King Center in Long Beach.

“There’s no question that if I didn’t have the community’s support, I would not be in business,” he said. “They supported me and I supported them.”

Koff said he is not thinking about going back into business for himself. He plans on working in the golf business with his son, who is a golf pro at Eisenhower Park.   Key Food officials did not return calls for comment.

IRISH 4 February 28, 2013 at 01:57 PM
I dont care what the did . it was best for them .They ran the best Supermarket I was ever in.family and children friendly and if you mention a product it was there the next time you went shopping ,And they never ran out of the items that were on sale, they had notes in front so you knew what was on sale.Wish them all the best and I hope Key food brings back the staff that was there .
Buzz Fine March 01, 2013 at 02:18 PM
Dear CAPSLOCK! Lies and BS? The Koffs never lied to anyone. If things didn't go the way you expected then that that's simply too bad. What lies are you talking about? The ones that people made up and spread as rumors because they are clueless? Did you ever ask Barry or Rob to clarify anything? Selling the store before the storm? REALLY? How would you know? Did you ever ask? Even if they were, so friggin what? It's their right! Were you worried you wouldn't be able to keep your menial job? Maybe you should have been been worrying about that anyway. The Koff family treated their loyal employees as family and I KNOW just how devastated they really are. How do I know? I asked. I was at that store several times store while they had to deal with the devastation and tried to rebuild. WHERE WERE YOU? Here's an idea: why don't YOU open a business, then you can run it the way you see fit. But I bet you don't have the brains or balls to do so. Instead of hiding behind rumors and assumptions why don't you gather facts. You might find out the truth isn't as devious as you think. My heart bleeds for the employees of C-town and the Koff family. I know what they are really going through, do you? Have you ever called either brother and offered any assistance? No, you just expect them to rescue YOUR sorry ass! You put in your post "if you want the truth...." You wouldn't know the truth if it bit you in the ass. All you know is the lies and rumors you helped create. Good luck to you.
Buzz Fine March 03, 2013 at 09:04 AM
I'm a fucktard? You ignorant piece of garbage. It's pretty clear where you get your info: rumor mills and other ignorant morons.
SG11561 March 03, 2013 at 04:52 PM
Yeah Buzz you are. the truth is and will be told. I would come out and say the things your saying to Buzz if my wife were the book keeper there too... just saying.


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