Urban Market(ing): South Williamsburg Gets a Grocery Store

Savvy marketing

Savvy marketing

Because not everyone in South Williamsburg wants to do all their food shopping at Marlow & Daughters—after all, how much pastured pork and lamb and loaves of sprouted spelt can a person eat?—the neighborhood, divided roughly by Grand Street from its yet-hipper northern relative, now has a new grocery store. Urban Market of Williamsburg, which celebrated its grand opening today, occupies a 16,000 square-foot space at 11 Broadway, just across Kent Avenue from the East River.

Like Whole Foods, Urban Market will offer traditional grocery and household products, as well as specialty, locally-sourced and organic items, making it the neighborhood’s first full-service grocery store. (Northern Williamsburg is slated to get a particularly sleek-looking Whole Foods in the not-too-distant future, at the corner of Bedford Avenue and North 4th Street, in the heart of what The Observer recently heard described as “the Times Square of Brooklyn.”)

L+M Development Partners brought the property to market, where it was leased by Great Jones Realty to Colin Xie and Jason Chung, who also own and operate stores in Forest Hills and Far Rockaway. “Community is key for us,” Mr. Chung said in a release. “And we want Urban Market to be a cornerstone of the neighborhood, a non-exclusive meeting place for the entire community.” In seeming echo of Mr. Chung’s sentiment, the New York Healthy Food & Healthy Communities (HFHC) Fund—established in 2010 with $30 million courtesy of Goldman Sachs and Empire State Development to supply “capital grants and loans to expand the healthy food offerings in underserved neighborhoods throughout New York State”—provided partial funding for Urban Market. 

“The area south of the Williamsburg Bridge has faced historically low access to healthy fresh food,” added Judi Kende, a senior vice president at the Low Income Investment Fund, which is responsible for administering the HFHC. “Urban Market fills this gap and integrates a grocery store into the community by locating it in a mixed-income housing development.”

That Urban Market will make for easier access in South Williamsburg to fresh, healthy edibles, we do not doubt. But mixed-income housing development or not, from a profit-seeking perspective, Urban Market’s timing is, well, excellent. As New York noted last year, the south side of the neighborhood has lately “seen the addition of dozens of bars, restaurants, and shops, not to mention a trapeze school.” (Italics are The Observer‘s.) Still some ten years behind the north, New York estimated, the south had begun to raise the same issues that its neighbor confronted: “questions about who ‘belongs,’ culture clashes between new and old residents, and, of course, rent hikes.”

Those new residents? The ones paying the hiked rents? Something tells us they’re going to want a place to shop, which makes all the kumbaya rhetoric sound just a touch disingenuous.