Photo by Jennifer K. via Yelp
When Manhattan’s favorite market Fairway announced that it would be opening a branch in Red Hook in 2006, food lovers from all over Brooklyn waited in anxious anticipation. The market would be housed in the Red Hook Stores, the largest of the brick storage warehouses built by Red Hook’s original developer William Beard in the 1870s. This iconic Red Hook landmark was built to store cotton, jute, coffee and other commodities.
With 52,000 square feet of retail space, the ground floor of the Red Hook Stores was perfect for a new supermarket. Like many other Red Hook buildings, the Red Hook Stores was owned by Greg O’Connell. He renovated the building to hold the market, as well as three floors of apartments above it. With a world class view and lofty spaces, the apartments were a big hit, as well.
When Fairway first opened its doors in 2006, it immediately became Brooklyn’s most popular market. The store was packed with eager shoppers from opening to closing.
Would any market have been this popular? What was it about Fairway? Their company history tells the tale.
Photo by Ella T. via Yelp
The Fairway Story
Before there was a Fairway, there was Glickberg’s fruit and vegetable market, founded in 1933 in a small storefront on Broadway and 74th Street, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
Nathan Glickberg wasn’t trying to start an empire; he was simply trying to make a living during the Great Depression. Even though most people had little money, everyone still wanted fresh produce. Glickberg’s market survived the lean years, and began to grow.
By the 1950s, son Leo had joined his father in the business. The city’s freshest produce was still their mainstay. They changed the business name to Fairway, at the suggestion of Leo’s wife Cynthia. Her father had operated a successful business by that name, and she thought it would bring them good fortune.
Photo via I Love the Upper West Side blog
Fairway thrived over the next twenty years, becoming the Upper West Side’s most popular and successful produce market. Shoppers loved the outdoor bins of fruits and vegetables, which were always fresh and ripe, their bounty practically spilling onto the sidewalk.
Inside, the market had bins on the walls where customers could self-serve bags of candy and nuts. Fairway cared more about offering their merchandise at a good price than fancy aesthetics. Boxes of goods sat on wooden crates and in knocked-together plywood bins, everything sitting on a sawdust-covered floor.
In 1974, Howie Glickberg, Leo’s son, took over the business. This third-generation grocer realized that they would need more space to grow. Howie brought in two new partners, and began a physical expansion into the storefronts next door.
Original Manhattan store. Photo via Wikipedia
They brought in other grocery items, and began specializing in unusual and imported foodstuffs which were snapped up in the growing upscale gourmet food movement. Fairway gained a reputation for having ingredients no one else carried, and the foodies beat a path to their door from around the city and beyond.
Their first branch store opened in Harlem in 1995. Fairway’s first store outside the city opened in Plainview, Long Island in 2001. The Red Hook Store was Fairway’s fourth branch, opening in 2006.
The chain now has 15 Fairway stores in the New York City area and three wine and spirit shops. More are planned for spaces in upcoming Manhattan developments.
Howie’s two partners retired in 2006. Sterling Investment Partners of Westport, Connecticut now owns a majority ownership of the chain. Howie is Vice Chairman of Development, responsible for opening new stores.
Photo by Rodger P. via Yelp
The Red Hook Fairway
While all Fairway stores offer a great shopping experience, Red Hook’s unique location offers even more. Who would have thought a supermarket would be a tourist and dining destination?
The Red Hook Fairway has become a popular place for dining out. Their deli and prepared food department offers up lobster rolls, sandwiches and salads and other prepared foods. Customers can to the aisles and specialty counters for fresh coffees, cheese, yogurt or fruit.
Photo by Suzanne Spellen
Shoppers can take their bounty to picnic tables outside where they can enjoy the glorious view of the harbor as a backdrop. The Statue of Liberty, the other Red Hook warehouse buildings, and views of Manhattan, Staten Island and beyond await.
It’s a wonderful place to while away an afternoon. Afterwards, you can go back into the store and shop in what is arguably New York’s best supermarket – a market that began as a small produce stand at Broadway and 74th Street, 83 years ago. What’s more authentically New York than that?