Buffalo Tops grocery store reopens two months after mass shooting

The afternoon was clear and warm, much like another afternoon exactly two months ago.

Just as they did then, community members gathered outside Cold Spring Market & Deli, a basic convenience store; the elders sat in the shade of the trees at the corner of Landon Street and Jefferson Ave. ; dozens more dotted the perimeter of the Tops Friendly Markets parking lot. The sounds, too, were eerily similar: people talking, car and bicycle engines revving, police sirens, fire trucks and ambulances.

But July 14 was not May 14.

On May 14, stunned and heartbroken community members gathered to mourn immediately after a gunman rampaged up Jefferson Ave, a racist attack this killed 10 people, all black. Two months to the day, senior government officials, local and state leaders and community members gathered in the store’s parking lot Thursday to mark the occasion the day before. the reopening of the store to the public on Friday morning.

Earlier in the day, Tops held a private remembrance for store associates, family members and family members of shooting victims.

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Tops Friendly Market officials walk into the renovated Jefferson Avenue store in Buffalo.

Kathy Sautter, Public and Media Relations Manager for Tops, served as the event’s host.

Bishop Darius G. Pridgen, president of the Buffalo Common Council and senior pastor of True Bethel Baptist Church, spoke first.

“There is a story in the Bible about Nehemiah that talks about this wall, the wall that had to be built. There was controversy over rebuilding that wall,” he says, referring to the decision to quickly remodel and reopen the Tops, which some community members said was too soon. “It was difficult to rebuild this wall. But today we are here because there are many Nehemiahs in Buffalo, many Nehemiahs who have labored inside this building day and night, many Nehemiahs who have protected, many Nehemiahs who have nurtured .

Pridgen quoted scripture and led the group in prayer.

At 2:30 p.m., the time of the May 14 shooting, council member Ulysses E. Wingo led the group in remembering the victims, followed by a moment of silence. After reading the name of each victim, a firefighter rang a bell. People who were injured, but not killedwere also recognized.

In the temporary silence came the voices of dozens of community members along the fence that had been erected around the Tops parking lot.

Cariol Horn gets help holding the sign, "You want us to shop here, but you have a door keeping us out now!" A fence with security did not allow people to walk around the event.

Grady Lewis, who says he saw the shooting, Cariol Horne and other members of the community held a bright sign that read: “You want us to shop here, but you have a door that keeps us out. They cheered, “Let us in!” Let us in!” as they stood in the sun near the tents where attendees were seated.

“They want us to shop tomorrow, but they won’t let us in today? Horne asked.

Lewis said he was torn about the reopening: Although he thinks it’s important that members of the community have access to the items, he thinks the reopening was disrespectful, calling it “a circus”.

“We need a place to shop, but I always want more stuff and respect for the community, and they lack respect,” he said. “None of those people live in the community. Maybe four people there live in the community. For me, I feel disrespected to be behind a door in my community, where I played when I was a kid when it was a pitch here…I feel disrespected here.

After the moment of silence, Pat Patterson, who works at Jefferson Ave Tops in the dairy department, read a poem by Jillian Hanesworth, Buffalo Poet Laureatewhich is now part of a water memorial inside the Tops.

Tops president John Persons said love and gratitude were the keys to recovering from the grief caused by the shooting.

“People in Western New York came together in such an amazing way after this hateful attack“, he said. “It was a tremendous outpouring of love to meet local needs and to ensure that communities always had access to food and other services. It served as an inspiration to all of us at Tops as we focused our attention on supporting our associates, our customers and the entire Jefferson Ave neighborhood in the days following the shooting.

After a ceremony honoring those who died in the racist attack on black people at Tops Friendly Market on Jefferson Ave in Buffalo, NY, a walk through the store was held for special guests and media on Thursday July 14, 2022. The store will officially open on Friday.  Two months ago, a man shot and killed 10 people and injured three in Tops.

People praised the resilience of Tops staff, 75% of whom returned after the shooting. He said the team members adopted the phrase “Jefferson Strong” as a mantra to “remind themselves regularly and to all of us that they will not let adversity and evil defeat them”.

In an interview with USA Today Network, Mike Patti, regional vice president of Tops, said the employees did not receive a raise, although they were paid from the time of the shooting until now. Neither he nor Persons knew how many of the esteemed 29 employees who were at Tops during the shooting chose to return.

“We want to tell our community, we are here for you. Today and for years to come,” Persons said.

Attorney General Letitia James, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes also spoke.

Jackie Mines, acting director of the African American Cultural Center, performed a contemporary dance that “emphasized healing as the new store opened to the community.” During his performance, set to the gospel song “Total Praise”, the audio cut out. Those gathered sang a capella as Mines continued to dance.

Senior officials said the renovated building had a different feel than it had before, which they said community members had requested. Among the security enhancements, a new surveillance system includes improved video surveillance. The Buffalo Police Department will provide professional security coverage inside and out, and the store has installed an audible/visual emergency evacuation alarm system, with additional emergency exits.

A ceremony honoring those who died in the racist attack on black people at Tops Friendly Market on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo was held in the parking lot.

There is a new store layout, with new flooring and LED lighting, new and extended self checkouts, all equipped with video surveillance; and improved ventilation systems.

Other changes include improved foods, expanded organic options, new dairy products and an expanded box of prepared foods for on-the-go meals. In conjunction with Anderson’s Flower Shop, a local florist, there is now a dedicated floral department, as well as expanded personal care products, health education screenings and more items from black-owned businesses. The store is also waiving its grocery delivery fees through the end of August.

Outside the store, Adinkra symbols from Ghana have been added, greeting shoppers with the signs of peace, harmony, welcome and farewell.

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