Monday, July 25, 2005

Big Box Tops and Adirondack Blight

In the Adirondacks, Tops Supermarkets are ubiquitous to say the least. Many communities depend on Tops as the only supermarket of any size in town. Much of the fresh produce brought into the region is sold in Tops – in a number of places – North Creek, Schroon Lake, Chestertown, Indian Lake and others – the local Tops is the only game in town. Most had been Grand Unions until they were purchased in 2001. Some are still run-down and most offer a limited selection of fresh meat, fish and produce so it doesn’t bode well for a whole lot of us that Ahold, the multinational corporation that now owns Tops has abandoned it for greener pastures.

Tops is just a trade name, the real name of the company was the Niagara Frontier Services, begun in 1960 by Savino Nanula, Armand Castellani (the owner of Great Bear Market) and Thomas Buscaglia (a grocery equipment salesman) near Buffalo / Niagara (the later two are now dead). Tops along with it’s subsidy Sugercreek / Wilson Farms convenience stores were purchased by Ahold in 1991 in their bid to control America’s groceries [pdf].

Ahold just sold Sugercreek / Wilson Farms to “WFI Acquisition, Inc.,” – a corporate shield for Savino Nanula’s “The Nanula Group,” which is actually a corporation formed by Nanco Enterprises, Inc. and the New York City investment firm Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co. Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co is a coporation formed by former senior executives of Citicorp Venture Capital (who doesn’t even have a website they care so little about who knows about them) and, well, they are, you know.

But who knows what Nanco Enterprises is, though we do suspect the “Nan” in “Nanco” and the “Nan” in “Nanula” are one in the same – another shield from personal responsibility for what your corporate identity does, it wouldn’t surprise us it if was some kind of tax shelter as well.

Anyway… the question is, will Nanula and his good ole boys buy back the Tops in our midst now that Ahold has had its way with them? Or will they simply go the way many Grand Unions have – to abandoned blight. Its just another reason that the Big Box sucks… imagine what our towns and villages would have looked like had these “Super” Markets not replaced the locally owned corner grocery.

A great opportunity to mention that local baker Matt Funiciello, owner of Rock Hill Bakehouse, is hosting James Kunstler on Tuesday, August9th.


John Warren

John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for more than 45 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John's Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on North Country Public Radio and on WSLP Lake Placid.

He is also on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute and edits The New York History Blog. He is the author of two books of regional history.




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