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.
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