America’s first supermarket is disappearing.
Back in January, it was announced that Stop & Shop’s parent company was planning to buy the Long Island-based supermarket chain’s 32 locations and five Wild by Nature stores.
The King Kullen in Mt. Sinai off Nesconset Highway might not be on that list. It’s closing its doors later this month.
“That’s what we are told,” said an employee who answered the phone at the store.
The multiple employees interviewed didn’t know if the store was converting to a Stop & Shop, if employees will be relocated to another store, or if the store was closing permanently with no plans to replace it.
A person who answered the phone at the King Kullen corporate office verified that the location will close at the end of June but offered no other information.
There is no confirmation of what day the store will close but speculation among the employees put the last day as June 20 or June 28.
The King Kullen is an anchor store in the Mt. Sinai Shopping Center, which includes a Rite Aid, a Subway and UPS as just a few of the national chains in the same strip mall.
Mom-and-pop businesses are also counted among the tenants, including The Wine Authority, Mt. Sinai Bagel and Rocco’s pizzeria, as well as professional offices.
The shopping center was purchased by East Meadow-based commercial real estate company United Properties in 2017 for $30 million.
An employee at a neighboring business in the shopping center, who did not want to be named, was upset that King Kullen was closing because it was convenient to shop there after work.
“I’m sure their employees are more upset,” the person said.
Another storefront remains vacant in the same shopping center. Previously the unit was occupied by a Hallmark store but has yet to be rented since it closed.
According to King Kullen’s own historical archives, Michael Cullen founded King Kullen in 1930 in Queens. He went with the play on his last name when his son misspelled it with a K instead of a C in a drawing he did.
While the deal for Stop & Shop to buy King Kullen isn’t finalized yet, there is already duplicity with a Stop & Shop in Miller Place less than three miles away on Route 25A and a newly opened Shoprite located about a half-mile away on Nesconset Highway.
Speculation is rampant on Facebook community pages on why that particular store location is closing and what will replace it. Some are crossing their fingers and hoping it will become a Trader Joe’s grocery store.
Danielle Costagliola said that she was going to miss the convenience that the store offered her.
“It is hard to go out with twins — let alone food shopping! King Kullen was the perfect place to shop with two babies … and now toddlers,” she wrote in response to an inquiry by GreaterPortJefferson on Facebook.
Costagliola said the workers at the store cared.
“The employees were always so nice, the deli counter was speedy, and most employees would recognize the twins and ask about them,” she said. “I will really miss that personable interaction.”
The Mt. Sinai location itself was a bit of a throwback and some joked about it, invoking the nostalgia of other once-familiar stores that are now gone.
“Where else will we be able to walk into and feel like it’s 1989 still,” said Mat Kandell. “I do hope Cheap Johns or Woolworth goes into that space though.”
King Kullen is recognized by the Smithsonian Institute as America’s first grocery store.
It’s uniquely associated with food shopping for many Long Islanders and some have fond memories of the company as an employer too.
“My dad was a floating manager for King Kullen for 40 years! I grew up with it,” said Michelle Elizabeth. “I loved visiting my dad in the store while he was working, and he would parade his ‘beautiful daughter’ around to his friends. King Kullen was a huge part of my childhood. They will be sorely missed.”