“The produce is fresh. The people are knowledgeable. It’s clean,” Ms. López, 75, said while pointing to the loaf of Challah bread and the ball of mozzarella cheese in her cart. “If they ever close this store, I think I would cry.”
For years Fairway seemed to occupy an emotional space in New York’s psyche. After Hurricane Sandy destroyed parts of the city in late 2012, the reopening of the Fairway store in Red Hook four months later was greeted as a momentous triumph. Local residents, nearby business owners and lawmakers turned out for the event.
At the time, Howard Glickberg, the store’s vice chairman for development, said the company “made a decision when this happened that when we came back, it wouldn’t just be about Fairway. It would be about Red Hook.”
The challenges facing Fairway are part of a nationwide shakeout in the supermarket industry.
Amazon’s $13 billion purchase of Whole Foods has threatened to upend the grocery business. Unions representing grocery workers have seen a decline in membership. And many struggling groceries are owned by private equity companies that have loaded the stores with debt.
Over the last five years, a series of major chains across the country have filed for bankruptcy, including A. & P., Winn-Dixie, Bi-Lo and Marsh Supermarkets, as well as Fairway.
“It’s not a level playing field,” Abel Porter, chief executive of Fairway said in a 2018 interview. “Competing against Amazon is like competing against the government or a military commissary.”
Still, Burt P. Flickinger III, a consultant for retail chains, said that Fairway’s stores in New York City, excluding its location in Red Hook, Brooklyn, are among the leading grocery stores in the city. They have a loyal following and an outsize influence in the market, with many consumers going out of their way to shop there, he said.