Food Town Washington Heights: Whose Store is it, Anyway?

Bridget Goldschmidt
Managing Editor
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Foodtown of Washington Heights’ shoppers reflect an unusually dynamic area, both in terms of people who live in the neighborhood and those who work there.

“The demographic makeup of the community really needs to be viewed from two lenses: a residential demographic composition and a daytime population makeup,” explains John T. Derderian, president of Iselin, N.J.-based Allegiance Retail Services, a retail cooperative whose members operate 80-plus stores in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania under the Foodtown banner. “From a residential standpoint, 63 percent of the population is Hispanic, predominantly Dominican; 31 percent, African-American; and 3 percent, Asian. Like much of New York, a gradual gentrification is being witnessed in the neighborhood, with many younger urban professionals moving into this area. The daytime population increases dramatically based on the business/commerce in the area, the pedestrian shopping, and most importantly, the large number of people who work for the Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital complex and related medical facilities. … From a demographic standpoint, the daytime population is much more diverse, as hospital associates come from all over the greater metropolitan area.”

Accordingly, he points out, “the store has to meet the needs of the residential and daytime population, as shoppers will often shop on their way home from work, often utilizing mass transit — 78 percent of households in the trade area do not own a vehicle. So the store seeks to satisfy a more diverse group of shoppers than just neighborhood residents, which presented our merchants with a more challenging product mix.”