AUSABLE FORKS — On Tops once more.
Tops Friendly Markets officially unveiled 12 rebranded stores Tuesday. The stores are among 21 former Grand Union stores acquired by Tops last July, including six in the tri-county region.
“We’re just really excited to be here,” said Ray Ruszczak, district manager for 16 of the stores, including the one in AuSable Forks, where he took part in a grand reopening celebration Tuesday.
The other five local sites are two stores in Saranac Lake and one each in Peru, Elizabethtown and Schroon Lake.
After the event, Town Historian Sharron Hewston said the AuSable Forks grocery store is like breath of fresh air for the community.
She is most impressed by the inventory and prices, which she said are comparable with the large chain stores in Plattsburgh.
Although AuSable Forks is part of two towns, it really is one community.
“We need our own anchor store,” Hewston said.
Carrie Locatelli, the new manager in AuSable Forks, came on board three months ago.
“Our store here has officially transitioned to Tops Friendly Markets,” she said.
Locatelli said her team members did a great job as renovations were under way and have helped her learn the ropes in her first stint as a store manager.
She thanked customers for their loyalty during the process.
“We’re grateful for your patience and support during this transition,” Locatelli said.
Renovations include a new floor and vibrant artwork to show the different sections of the store.
The supermarket serves residents of AuSable Forks, parts of which are in the towns of Jay and Black Brook, and a number of surrounding hamlets.
Jay Town Supervisor Randy Douglas said small communities such as AuSable Forks have struggled since Interstate 87 opened and the nation turned to a mall-based shopping culture.
The town has worked hard to revitalize downtown, he said. It secured a $400,000 Main Street Grant from the state that provided 50 percent funding for ground-floor renovations and 75 percent funding for upper-level apartment improvements.