SARANAC LAKE - Jessica Kemp belted out "The Star-Spangled Banner" in the produce aisle of the former Grand Union supermarket on Church Street Tuesday morning, surprising shoppers who walked through the building's automatic doors to pick up a few groceries.
No, it wasn't the start of a flash mob or a stunt for a hidden-camera TV show. Kemp's performance was part of the grand reopening ceremony for the store, which, along with the former Grand Union on Lake Flower Avenue and 10 other stores around the region, is once again under the banner of Tops Friendly Markets.
"We're very excited as a company to be here once again in Saranac Lake," said Kathleen Graim of Tops Community Relations. "Saranac Lake is unique. It has a rich history. The supermarket has been part of that history for many years, and Tops is proud to continue that tradition."
Jeff Cross, manager of the former Grand Union on Church Street, Saranac Lake, cuts a ribbon Tuesday morning to officially reopen the store as a Tops Friendly Market. At right are fellow managers Tonya Ward and Ken Bowlby; at left is Saranac Lake village Mayor Clyde Rabideau.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
Tops officials, employees and a small crowd of guests gathered between shelves of condiments and bags of pre-made salad for the mid-morning ceremony at the Church Street store. It began with Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Eric Wamsganz reading the Pledge of Allegiance. Kemp, a Tops employee and salutatorian of the Saranac Lake High School Class of 2013, followed with the national anthem. Later, store Manager Jeff Cross handed out three checks for $500 each to local nonprofit organizations: the Tri-Lakes Humane Society, the JCEO Saranac Lake Community Outreach Program and the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department.
Tops announced last year that it had bought 21 stores in upstate New York and Vermont from GU Markets LLC, an affiliate of C&S Wholesale Grocers Inc. For many of them, including the local ones, this is the second time in 12 years they had switched from Grand Union to Tops.
They had been owned and branded by an older Grand Union company until it went under in 2001 and Tops bought the stores. In 2005, Tops sold them to C&S, a grocery wholesaler that ran them under the Grand Union name, which it had acquired from the prior company's bankruptcy.
Since reacquiring the Church Street store, Tops has fixed up its facade, repaved its parking lot and renovated and re-branded the interior of the building.
"The changes for our customers in their shopping experience is absolutely profound," Cross said. "Anybody that was in the store six months ago knows exactly where we're coming from, our associates, our customers. We're off to a great start, and we're very proud about that."
Cross joined Mayor Clyde Rabideau and a pair of store employees to officially cut the red ribbon to open the store.
Similar "grand reopening" ceremonies were held Tuesday at Tops' Lake Flower Avenue store and former Grand Unions in AuSable Forks, Elizabethtown, Peru, Chestertown, Schroon Lake, North Creek, Warrensburg, Bolton Landing, Corinth and Northville.
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.