The closing of Syracuse's Pond Street Wegmans last year left a hole in the city's north side. People who live in the neighborhood say they had to travel for miles to buy groceries. Tuesday, residents joined city officials to welcome a new market that opened its doors at the site. Sarah Blazonis takes us inside the grand opening of the North Side Tops Friendly Markets.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Santina Bill says she was devastated when the Pond Street Wegmans closed its doors last June.
"A lot of us are seniors that can't get around and unfortunately, it was pretty bad for us. You had to depend on other people to take you. Now we're independent again," said Bill, a resident of the city's north side.
The grand opening of the North Side Tops Friendly Markets is something city officials say they've worked toward for months.
"We could not have a north side without a place where people could get fresh fruits and vegetables, get good food and probably most importantly, serve as the unofficial City Hall of this neighborhood," said Mayor Stephanie Miner.
But they didn't expect it to necessarily happen so quickly. Construction on the $1.5 million renovation project began in October.
"This store is completely new from the ground up. From the outside of the building that is completely new to all of the individual departments within the store," said Tops Markets President and CEO Frank Curci.
It includes a produce section, full-service deli and meat and seafood departments. But managers say shoppers will also find unique features suggested by residents.
"Because we have the Center for New Americans, a lot of them are in this area, so we expanded the ethnic sections," said Richard Miller, manager of the North Side Tops.
But some residents say an added bonus to an already convenient shopping option are the more than 100 jobs the store brings to the neighborhood.
"I don't have a vehicle, so I had to pay someone for gas to take me somewhere else. Now that this is here, I can just come right here, so it works out perfectly for us. Me and my girlfriend work here," said Tops employee and north side resident Anthony Cullen.
Wegmans had said last year that declining sales lead to the closing of this location, but Tops officials say that doesn't worry them. They say they view this site as an opportunity to grow their brand in the Syracuse area and provide an important service for residents.