Grocery Gain: Westside Market to Open Second Chelsea Location | chelseanow.com

Grocery Gain: Westside Market to Open Second Chelsea Location

Signage announces the new W. 23rd St. store, expected to open in around six to eight months. Photo by Scott Stiffler.

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC | Chelsea is ending the year with a win, after a loss that took many by surprise and deprived its major thoroughfare of a reliable destination for prepared food and grocery store staples. Signs covering the doors and windows of the former Garden of Eden Marketplace on W. 23rd St. near Seventh Ave. confirm that the area will soon have one less empty storefront.

“We always wanted to be in the 20s,” Westside Market’s Demetri Belesis said. “It’s a great location. It’s the heart of Chelsea.”

For decades, Westside Market has been a neighborhood staple on the Upper West Side. The family-owned chain opened its first Chelsea location in 2004, at 77 Seventh Ave. and W. 15th St.

“We love the area and we jumped on an opportunity to keep doing business in the area,” Belesis said by phone, noting that about a year ago, Westside was offered the W. 23rd St. space — but as Garden of Eden was still there, they passed. “We wouldn’t want to do anything like that,” he explained, noting the family’s thought at the time was, “If it’s available, we’ll discuss — and that’s what happened.”

In early August, independently owned Garden of Eden Marketplace closed after two decades in the neighborhood. Longtime customers told Chelsea Now before its shuttering that it was a more affordable option than other grocery stores in the area.

Westside Market’s Demetri Belesis calls the space on W. 23rd St. near Seventh Ave. a “great location” in the “heart of Chelsea.” Photo by Scott Stiffler.

Advocates, such as Italo Medelius, have been focused on food access in the neighborhood after Associated Supermarket, which was located at W. 14th St. and Eighth Ave., closed last year.

Medelius and a subcommittee at Hudson Guild have been studying the issue, launching a survey earlier this year about grocery store affordability in Chelsea, and looking at the impact it has on seniors, those with disabilities, and lower-income residents.

“For me, it’s a positive that a local chain, and a chain that services its neighbors, is coming into our community rather than a big corporation or a megastore,” Medelius said by phone. “It’s really good to see that there is going to be some more competition.”

Medelius said he was familiar with Westside Market, having shopped at the current Chelsea location and on the Upper West Side, saying, “They are not the most affordable, but they are on par with the Garden of Eden.”

In addition to affordability, advocates in the neighborhood have been working on expanding the number of stores in the area that take WIC, a supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children. Ideal Marketplace at 317 Ninth Ave. and Western Beef at 431 W. 16th St. are the only two stores in the area that accept WIC vouchers. Medelius and Miguel Acevedo of the Fulton Houses Tenants’ Association have been spearheading a grassroots effort to get Gristedes, which has three stores in Chelsea, to once again take WIC checks. Elected officials have also been working on this issue.

Medelius said he is concerned that Westside Market does not take WIC. Belesis confirmed that the chain does not take WIC, but declined to elaborate why.

Westside Market signed a 20-year lease at 170 W. 23rd St. for the 8,000 square-foot store, according to a press release from Jack Resnick & Sons, the space’s landlord. A rep for Jack Resnick & Sons declined to comment on the asking rent.

Belesis said that the store is expected to open in around six to eight months. The chain is also opening two additional new locations: one at E. 17th St. and Third Ave., and one at E. 92nd St. and Lexington Ave, he said. One of Westside Market’s stores on Broadway near W. 77th St. closed recently, he confirmed.

A staple of the Upper West Side, this Seventh Ave. and W. 15th St. location opened in 2004. Photo by Scott Stiffler.

John Zoitas started the business in 1965, after coming to the US from Greece “more than 45 years ago. He brought with him a love of fresh-grown produce, authentic cooking, and a steadfast commitment to service and quality,” according to Westside Market’s website.

Belesis, who is Zoitas’ son-in-law, has run the business with Zoitas’ son, George, for the last 12 years. Belesis emphasized that is a family business that prides itself on the personal touch and its customer service. “We have a relationship with our customers,” he said, noting that the owners are usually at one of the stores.

One of the things that is unique to Westside Market is its prepared food, which Belesis said they focus on a lot — each store has its own onsite kitchen with a staff of about 25 to 30 people, he said. The food offered ranges from Asian to Greek to Spanish cuisines among others, he said.

“A lot of recipes come from Maria Zoitas,” he said, noting that she is coming out soon with a traditional Greek cookbook.

Belesis said that they are “very excited” about the new store.