A & P leaves Bedford after more than a century
Photo Courtesy of the Bedford Historical Society
Greek philosopher Heraclitus famously said that the only constant in life is change. To find evidence supporting this theory, you need to just look down Route 22. The recent upheaval in the local grocery store marketplace, including closings, rumors, and shifting of ownership, has left residents facing bare shelves and uncertain options. While Table Local Market and Mrs. Greens are both jumping ship, at the center of the storm is the bankruptcy of one-time grocery behemoth A&P, which created a vacancy—and potential opportunity—in the Village for the first time in several decades.
The A&P was initially located on the Village Green in the Lounsbery Building that now houses the Horse Connection. Dating from 1906, the building was owned by Edith Colgate who leased it to the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company. But there was a hitch. Colgate, one of the founders of the Bedford Historical Society, balked at the trademark A&P red exterior and included a stipulation that the storefront be kept white.
This story actually found its way into The New Yorker which, in 1959, published a cartoon of two ladies facing a village green with the caption: “We’re terribly proud of our little town. I defy you to spot the A&P.” In 1972, the A&P relocated from the Village Green to the then-new Hunting Ridge Mall on the other side of town. In mid-October 2015, the Bedford A&P was sold at auction, and approved in bankruptcy court, to Key Food.
Even for today’s marketplace in which yo-yoing of profits and losses can be commonplace, this turn of events is shocking. Long-time local resident and attorney Dan Hollis remembers, “If someone had told me 40 years ago that one day A&P would go bankrupt, I never would have believed them. But if someone also said I would one day pay four dollars for a cup of coffee, I wouldn’t have believed that either. Things change.”
Some locals actually see the turnover as a good thing. The initial A&P bankruptcy announcement set off a veritable social media frenzy as to what would take its place. So intense was the speculation that it was difficult to discern truth from pie-in-the-sky daydreaming. During the 36-hour span when I thought Fairway was moving in, my feet didn’t touch the ground. Others have had a more proactive response. Recognizing the vacuum created and our community’s desire for high-quality, healthy food, a group has formed to create a food co-op in Katonah. Though just at the earliest stages of development, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
Says co-op head Gia Doron, “We are in a kind of food desert here. By partnering with local farmers, as well as offering agricultural health and education, we plan to be more of a change maker in the community than just a typical grocery store.”
While opinions were voiced publicly and privately (a Facebook group begging Trader Joe’s to come to Bedford attracted 800 members), the reality of our low population and lack of proximity to main roads makes the location a tough sell to any retailer. But before we drown in self-pitying tears born of a longing for Whole Foods or Wegmans, isn’t that what we love about Bedford in the first place?
"We're terribly proud on out little town. I defy you to spot the A & P."
—Drawing by Stevenson; (c) 1959 by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.