Grand Union to Close Doors



Since the arrival of Price Chopper last May, Grand Union Family Market has increasingly struggled to draw in customers, which was evidenced by the store’s often empty parking lot and decreased hours. Despite hopes that Colgate students would boost sales, Grand Union employees were informed last week that the store would be closing.

“The store had been suffering severely throughout the summer months,” senior Samantha Coleman, a native of Hamilton who has worked for Grand Union since 2006, said. “While I do not pretend to understand the rationale of those within our company I do know that they were hoping the arrival of Colgate students would provide the necessary sales for them to remain afloat. However, this did not happen. The district manager, other corporate figures and our union representative came to the store last Tuesday to inform our manager that the store would begin closing immediately.”

According to Gretchen Oostenink, who has lived in Hamilton for more than 40 years, many people in the community were initially opposed to shopping at Price Chopper, but changed their minds upon learning of the store’s gas discount program. Despite these discounts, Oostenink and other members of the Hamilton community have continued to shop at Grand Union for a variety of different reasons.

“My general understanding of the collective sentiment towards [Grand Union] closing is that of resignation and slight resentment,” Coleman said. “Those who continue to faithfully shop at our store out of protest are angry that they will have to go elsewhere to buy their groceries. Others continued to shop at our store for our selection of products not carried at Price Chopper. Those who are most angry are those who have been treated poorly at Price Chopper.”

Coleman expounded upon some of these Grand Union customers’ alleged concerns about shopping at Price Chopper.

“[Price Chopper’s] strict rules about savings card use, check cashing and debit card charges have alienated many in the community. Many are upset because of the loss of competition. Already some of their regular prices are higher than ours. While they may have great sales, their regular prices, lack of selection and rude customer service have driven many of their potential customers away,” Coleman said.

For the 50 employees of Grand Union, the store closing will mean more than just the loss of competition. Neither the full-time nor part-time employees will receive severance pay when the store closes, and some employees will lose their health insurance and 401k benefits as well. To Coleman, the biggest loss will be the friendships and personal connections she has made while working at Grand Union.

“The closing of the store upsets me because I will lose my job and the relationships I have with my friends and the customers that shop on a weekly basis,” Coleman said. “I am angry and bitter at the behavior of some members of the community, our company and Price Chopper. It didn’t have to be this way and it is sad that it will only be after the store has closed that many will realize what they are losing. I will drive to Clinton, Utica or Oneida to do my shopping as will my friends and relatives as they are disillusioned with this Price Chopper. Shame on them for exploiting our closing for their personal gain and enjoyment. Apparently the pending unemployment of the 23 employees remaining at Grand Union is worth celebrating. Shame on them.”

Students like senior Mindy Goldenberg, however, feel that while the loss of Grand Union is regrettable, Price Chopper’s selection and quality of products have made it a far better place to shop.

“It’s unfortunate for everyone associated with Grand Union, but Price Chopper is providing better services for students and maybe people in Hamilton because of the lower costs and greater selection. It’s just a shame that it has to come at a cost to the community,” Goldenberg said. “The closing of Grand Union seems to illustrate the general trend of commercialization that’s now reaching smaller towns like Hamilton. It’s not necessarily a good thing, but it’s a reality that may be harder for people to accept who have lived here for a long time, as opposed to students who are just looking for cheap and easy solutions.”

Grand Union store manager Chuck Taylor was unable to comment on the store closing. However, according to Coleman, the store is no longer receiving shipments of perishable items and will continue to discount items until enough has been sold so that the remaining stock can be shipped to other stores, at which time the store will close.

Price Chopper employees could not be reached for comment.