Tops Markets is considering opening another store in downtown Buffalo, a development some hail as a sign the city’s revitalization is taking hold.
“Retail is always the last in,” said Michael Schmand, executive director of Buffalo Place. “They wait for the people, they wait for the momentum, and then the retail shows up.”
A grocery popping up in the heart of the city shows there is enough foot traffic to support it – traffic that did not exist before the blitz of development and creative reuse projects that have taken root in the city over the past several years. That growth has continued with the development of the HarborCenter and Canalside.
President and CEO Frank Curci said Tops would like to have a store downtown by year’s end but declined to discuss possible locations or size.
“Western New York is Tops’ hometown, and we’re excited about the groundswell of active development in the City of Buffalo,” Curci said. “We would like to be a part of that progress.”
Curci said there is no definitive plan in place for another downtown store but said Tops is “actively exploring a number of options” and said timing and location have “yet to be resolved.”
Matthew Enstice, president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, said there is a great desire to have a grocery store near the Medical Campus.
“Housing is a huge component to our overall strategy,” Enstice said. “One of the big parts of building a full community is having grocery stores and the support amenities there.”
Until now, for much of downtown, that has been a Catch-22. Neighborhoods without accessible grocery options have a hard time attracting residents, but grocery stores need a minimum population to support them.
“We’re hoping the growth of the campus will build enough of a demand to foster that environment,” Enstice said.
Just as Mayor Byron W. Brown wants 1,300 new residential units in the downtown area over the next four years, Enstice hopes grocery and other essential amenities will fall into place to support the growth happening in the city.
Enstice said Tops has not contacted the Medical Campus to express interest in locating nearby but said he would love to “sit down with them about what we can do to be helpful.”
Tops has said that it is focusing on renovating existing locations in Western New York and that expansion here would likely be in the form of smaller locations that can fill gaps in its service areas. Tops stores can vary widely in size and are built to fit into their surrounding communities. Tops’ 159 stores in New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont range in size from about 6,000 to 100,000 square feet.
Tops has six locations in Buffalo, at 345 Amherst St., 1275 Jefferson Ave., 1770 Broadway, 1460 South Park Ave. and 2101 Elmwood Ave. The store at 425 Niagara St. is owned by a franchisee.