The Death of Fairway Market | Impact on UWS
I’ve been reading a lot of articles today about what is going to happen to Fairway Market. We heard rumors over the past few weeks that Fairway might file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and close its stores. This morning, the Post put out an article, and the West Side Rag and I Love the Upper West Side followed.
My inbox was flooded with my friends forwarding the Post article. They know just how obsessed I am with Fairway, even though it doesn’t come close to what it was in its glory days before being bought out by private equity owners.
My Storied History with the West 74th Street Fairway Market
It began 36 years ago… when I was 4 years old. My family moved to the Upper West Side and began frequenting Fairway. My mother trekked the extra long blocks from Columbus and 74th to Broadway and 74th with her shopping cart (yes, she was one of those moms; yes, she embarrassed me to no end; yes, she still embarrasses me, but she no longer has the shopping cart). Even though Pioneer was closer than Fairway, 35 years ago, it looks about the same as it does today. It was dingy, had less selection, and prices were higher. Today, only the first two are true.
Over the years that I frequented Fairway, it expanded from a corner grocer to a full on supermarket, taking over the Gristedes that used to be next door, and then expanding upstairs, building its organic section and cafe. While the Glickberg family owned it, there were a few things you could always count on:
- fresh fruits and vegetables that lasted over a week,
- the cheapest food in the city (sometimes by 50% or more),
- a vast selection of just about everything you could ever want to consume,
- crowds, and
- no helpful workers (if you weren’t a regular, good luck to you).
People traveled from all over the City to shop at Fairway on West 74th Street. Fairway had a pretty large delivery zone, and people were willing to make the trek for the quality produce and fancy cheeses. You could save money and get a better quality and selection of food by traveling across town, shopping, and then having your food delivered.
After the Glickbergs sold, everything changed. 1-3 above got far worse, while 4-5 got better. As a New Yorker, how many of you care about crowds and helpful workers? Would you sacrifice those things for amazing produce at cheap prices? I would any day. I miss the old Fairway.
Fun facts about me and Fairway Market
My friend Tara and her family are cousins of the Glickbergs. Her father worked at Fairway, and she spent her summers there stocking the shelves.
When I was in my 20s, living on 75th and Broadway, after every bad date, I would go to Fairway (which was always open) and pick up their chocolate covered pretzels. My reward for sitting through a painful evening. Their chocolate covered pretzels were made of the best chocolate and delicious pretzels and were super cheap – I could justify the sometimes bi-weekly cost. My friend Shira can attest to my regular visits, as I would always be on the phone with her sharing my story, while buying the pretzels.
At my bridal shower, my friends did one game. They asked Dan a bunch of questions about me beforehand and got his answers. Then, at my shower, they asked me the same questions. This was a test of how well we knew each other. One question was “where does Rebecca want to retire?” Dan’s answer was “right where she lives now – across the street from Fairway!” I was stumped by the question, as I hadn’t really thought about living anywhere else, and when my friends revealed Dan’s answer, it was clear that Dan knew me better than I knew myself!
It’s true. I’ve always had a love affair with Fairway… until the Glickbergs sold. Now, it’s a love hate relationship, but I still love to hate Fairway and don’t want to see it go!
What Went Wrong?
After the Glickbergs sold, it was the same old story that happens to many amazing shops that try to do too much too quickly. The Glickbergs knew what they were doing. They knew how and where to source products. They knew how much to order to make sure everything they sold was fresh. They had been doing it since 1933, and they were true masters.
They began to expand, took on a lot of debt, and they couldn’t remain profitable. Over the last decade, we’ve seen the quality deteriorate while the prices have gone up exponentially.
Long gone are the days of truly fresh produce and good deals. Fairway shoppers have come to expect the ordinary now. Would we love to bring back the good old days with crowds and cheap fruit? Yes, of course. Have we accepted that it is unlikely those days will ever come again? Yes. Are we willing to settle for the Fairway of today: great selection, nicer employees, high prices and poor quality? Yes. Why?
Why are New Yorkers willing to settle? Because the alternative is far less appealing. As someone who cooks regularly, I like to pick out my own produce and often forget to get things and need to run out last minute for a lemon. Online food shopping just doesn’t work for people like me. We need proximity and selection. With Fairway, we still get that.
What would the death of the West 74th Street Fairway Market mean for UWS real estate values?
As much as I am a lover of Fairway, and I would pay more to live within walking distance of it, I don’t think most people place quite so much of a premium on it as I do. After all, the UWS still has Trader Joe’s on 72nd Street, Citarella on 75th Street, Zabars on 80th Street, and Whole Foods on 59th and 97th Streets. We aren’t lacking good markets, but, given my history with it, Fairway will always be my favorite. Plus, it’s only a block away from me, which makes it that much more valuable to me! While the West 70s would be a little sadder without Fairway, I don’t see real estate values being affected.
The (potentially) good news
Shortly after the NY Post article came out, Fairway clarified the incorrect reporting, stating they have no intention to close all its stores, according to Crain’s.
Let’s hope Fairway can weather this latest storm, and we can keep our local supermarket. If not, I just might have to move!!
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