Text by Julie Stagis, Hartford Courant; video by Angelica Spanos, FOX CT
WEST HARTFORD — A group led by three high-profile businessmen announced plans Monday evening to save The Crown Market from closing.
The group plans to buy the store, renegotiate the lease with Udolf Properties and keep the kosher grocery store open, according to a statement released Monday.
The group is led by Henry M. Zachs, a philanthropist and the founder and CEO of Message Center Management; Alan Lazowski, chief executive of LAZ Parking; and Brian Newman, a partner at CohnReznick and the past president and chairman of the board of the Mandell Jewish Community Center.
Community members had been talking since rumors surfaced of The Crown’s imminent closing, Zachs said Monday night. They sprung into action once store owner Marc Bokoff announced Feb. 18 his decision to close the store, Zachs said.
The Crown’s director of operations, Roger Keroack, who has been with the store for 12 years, has been tapped to run the store, Zachs said. Bokoff agrees with the plan, and more than 20 people have signed on to invest in the venture, Zachs said.
“The community really, really came together. People from all denominations, people that were unexpected,” Zachs said. “Our goal is to raise more dollars so we can be very efficient and move forward.”
Zachs said he could not say how much has been raised and how much the purchase will cost, but said the group needs a bit more.
“We’re working diligently toward it,” he said.
Bokoff announced Feb. 18 that because of “significant increases in competition, cost of goods, and one of the worst winters on record in a decade,” the store would close as soon as it used up its inventory. Shortly after the news broke, residents and others took to the Internet to express sadness and share ideas on how to save the store, which has been a fixture in the Hartford-area Jewish community for 74 years.
A petition on change.org asking the owners to “renegotiate their lease and seek support from the community to keep this valuable market … open” had 1,644 signatures on Monday evening.
“We are blessed to have a community that cares so deeply about saving this precious asset, as well as saving valuable jobs,” Zachs, a longtime West Hartford resident who now lives in Farmington, said in the prepared statement. “We are honored to be part of this local community-wide effort, all working together toward the common goal of ensuring that The Crown Market, a fixture in West Hartford for nearly a century, can continue to thrive for future generations.”
Although the idea was floated, The Crown will not become a cooperative, Zachs said. But the group will consult experts on how to run and improve the store, and will be open to ideas for a “new beginning,” he said.
“There’s no question that we will listen and we’ll make this thing happen,” Zachs said.
Those who wish to support the effort can email press liaison Stacy Silk Rome at firstname.lastname@example.org.