Taking Stock

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Local Notes

Relating to my piece about the “gimmes” that Amazon would be getting for building its HQ2 location in Long Island City, Google is proving that new tech jobs will come to NYC without the freebies that “Godzilla” will be getting. The online information giant, whose parent company is Alphabet Inc., said it will add 7,000 new jobs (double its current workforce) in Manhattan without the special perks that Amazon was offered. Google will develop a 1.7 million square foot campus (Hudson Square) near the Hudson River in the Chelsea and Tribeca areas of Manhattan and will spend more than $1 billion for its New York City expansion…Uplift Solutions, the great non-profit spearheaded by ShopRite’s Jeff and Sandy Brown, is working with Atlantic City to build a new supermarket in one of the most economically strapped cities in the Garden State. Other than limited assortment merchant Save-A-Lot, which opened in 2012, there hasn’t been a full-service supermarket in “casinoland” since 2006. Research is ongoing, and no retailer has been officially selected yet, but according to a spokesman for the project, funding options are currently being explored and the store hopes to open in the 2019-2020-time frame…Paramus, NJ-based E.A. Berg, a family-held food broker that been in business since 1923, has agreed to partner with Boise-ID-based national brokerage Impact Group. For E.A. Berg, the deal is expected to expand its range of services and geography; for Impact, the partnership will create a greater East Coast presence. Founded in 1994, Impact has grown significantly in the past two years, aided by investments by PE firm CI Capital…Giant/Martin’s has entered into a multi-year agreement with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the state’s Department of Agriculture to become the official sponsor of the Exposition Hall at the PA Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg. In related news, the Ahold Delhaize “brand” has delayed the opening of its first small format store – Giant Heirloom Market – to next month. That 9,500 square foot specialty store is located on Bainbridge Street in Philadelphia. In Newton, MA, Stop & Shop cut the ribbon on its version of small-format retailing on December 14. De-emphasizing (and perhaps ultimately scrapping the bfresh name in the region), the 21,000 square foot store – which will operate as a Stop & Shop – features an upscale look with an emphasis on perishables and prepared foods. As for the three bfresh stores that remain open in the Boston area, plans are for the company’s Brighton unit to close while stores in Allston, MA and Somerville, MA remain open with a potential new name down the road…Sheetz, one of the best c-store operators in the country, has announced that Travis Sheetz, executive VP-operations, has been promoted to the new post of COO, the first chief operating officer in the history of the 66-year old family-owned firm. Taking Travis’ former spot is Adam Sheetz, a third-generation member of the family, which operates more than 500 stores in PA, MD, WV, OH and NC. Joe Sheetz remains CEO of the Altoona, PA-based company…a tip of the hat to Ron Carkoski, chief executive and president of Four Seasons Produce, who is retiring from the Ephrata, PA-based distributor after more than 35 years in the produce business. Carkoski joined Four Seasons in 1994 and become CEO seven years later. Along with helping lead Four Seasons to a period of unprecedented expansion and success, Ron is truly one of the guiding lights in the entire produce industry with his tireless work ethic and his mentoring abilities. He is one of those rare people who makes you feel better about yourself once you’ve interacted with him. Ron will be moving back to his native Dorr County, WI (Green Bay area) where he hopes to keep semi-active in the business. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors…also kudos to our buddy, Dave Dulude, VP of independent retailer sales at Imperial Distributors. Dave will be retiring at year’s end after a lengthy and productive career at the Worcester, MA-based GM/HBC distributor. Dependable, always candid and quietly very funny, Dave’s impressive sales skills reminded me of those old school peddlers who met their customers fully prepared with a firm handshake and a keen understanding of their specific needs. We’ll miss Dave’s contributions to his company, his humor and generosity…unfortunately, it was a busy time at the obit desk this month.…from the world of entertainment, Ken Berry has left us. Berry, 85, was a big TV sitcom star in the 1960s, 70s and 80s with key roles in “F Troop” (1965-1967), “Mayberry R.F.D.” (1968-1971) and the “Carol Burnett Show” spinoff “Mama’s Family” (1983-1989). Berry said his favorite role was playing Capt. Wilton Parmenter, the bumbling officer in the goofy but hilarious sitcom about a group of inept soldiers defending their fort from the local Indian tribe (the Fugawis, changed later to the Hekawis after the censors figured out the joke)…one of the great screenwriters of our generation, William Goldman, has also transcended to a new level of consciousness. Among Goldman’s best and most notable screenplays were “Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid” (1969), “All The President’s Men” (1973) and “The Princess Bride” (1987). He also wrote a great book – “Adventures In The Screen Trade” (1983) – a cynical and funny book about movie making. He was 87…Penny Marshall has also left us. The Bronx born actress and director created one of TV’s most beloved characters – Laverne DeFazio – on the hit show “Happy Days” (1976-1983). A movie-lover all of her life, Marshall 75, yearned to become a director and made her behind-the-camera debut in the 1986 Whoopi Goldberg comedy “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” While that film was not a success, her next project certainly was. Her effort in the comedy “Big” (1988) made her a mainstay director in Hollywood. In 1992, she directed “A League of Their Own.” Both “Big” and “League” became the first two $100 million films directed by a female. A new documentary Marshall made about basketball weirdo Dennis Rodman is scheduled to be released next year. Marshall’s show business roots were very strong; she was once married to director/comic actor Rob Reiner (“All In The Family” and “This Is Spinal Tap”) and her late brother director/character actor Garry Marshall (“Pretty Woman” and “Murphy Brown”)… I was sad to hear about the passing of Ricky Jay, 72, a great “that guy” character actor and perhaps the best sleight-of-hand card trick artist of his time. Often appearing as a nefarious dude or a notorious henchman in such films as “House Of Games” (1987), “Boogie Nights” (1997) and “The Spanish Prisoner” (1997), Jay (born Richard Jay Potash) really excelled in his ability with a deck of playing cards. His one-man show was a combination of history, card throwing and unbelievable tricks. Jay was one of my favorite performers of the last 30 years and his 1996 HBO special, “Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants” (hard to find) and a 2012 documentary about his life called “Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay” are very much worth seeing. You’ll be mesmerized by this guy… “Bleecker Bob” has also died. The proprietor of one of the great record stores of all time, Robert Plotnick, who was 75, ran his Greenwich Village vinyl vault from 1967 to 2013. A disenchanted attorney who loved rock ‘n roll, Plotnick left the legal profession in 1967 and opened his first record store – Village Oldies – at 149 Bleecker Street. Over the next 46 years “Bleecker Bob” moved his shop to several locations in the Village. However, with each move, nothing seemed to change – each location always had the same funky look – tens of thousands of albums, rock posters from all eras and a strange collection of clocks. I know that I have dropped a few shekels at “Bleecker Bob’s” emporium and I was happy to do it, because I learned a lot about formerly unknown (to me) artists and also knew I was supporting somebody whose deep love of music was passionate and genuine.