BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Crews spent Wednesday afternoon working outside of Tops on Jefferson Avenue—an early sign of the store’s potential to reopen. It’s been closed since the racist massacre where 10 people were killed.
“I think it is absolutely the right decision to reopen that supermarket as quickly as possible,” said Mayor Byron Brown. “I wouldn’t put a timeframe on it. The president of Tops, John Persons, has committed the store will reopen.”
In a statement, a Tops spokesperson said “our engineers and construction management team are working closely with local contractors and equipment suppliers to establish the quickest possible timeline for reopening.” But people are torn between what they want to see happen with that Tops location.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t hear from both sides—from people who say the store should reopen, but they don’t want to see the same aisles. They don’t want to see the same store makeup. They want to see something better than it was,” said Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen. “Then there are people on the opposite side. I had one person say to me yesterday, ‘I don’t think that store should ever open again.'”
Officials said it’s also time to look into different ways for people in the neighborhood to access groceries. The Tops on Jefferson Avenue is the only place nearby to buy fresh food. The store is in a food desert, and many customers walk or take public transportation to shop.
“The reopening of Tops on Jefferson Avenue is absolutely necessary,” said Masten District Councilmember Ulysees Wingo. “That Tops serviced most of the African American community on the East Side of Buffalo. With the Masten District comprising of just about 90% of African Americans, we can see why it’s such a crucial entity in that part of the city.”
Pridgen said chain grocery stores might not always be the answer to this problem either. “If we reimagine how we do business – we’ve got food co-ops that want to come into the area with fresh food with people who actually live in the area, who are from Buffalo,” he said. “So I think that there is a great opportunity to reimagine what we’ve grown up in Buffalo with.”