A new convenience store will open its doors to the Collegetown community this Friday as Tops Xpress (formerly Wilson Farms) holds its grand opening celebration. The store is housed in the space previously occupied by Kinko’s at 409 College Ave.
“This is the first Tops Xpress ever,” said Stephanie Zakowicz, an employee of Tops Media Department. “Its something [the Tops corporation] is experimenting with.”
It was only within the last few days that the Tops Corporation made the final decision to launch this new branch, which is the first of its kind.
“It is a Wilson Farms, but it will have a different name,” Zakowicz said. “We don’t believe the name Wilson Farms has a lot of brand equity in the Ithaca market, but the name Tops does.”
According to store manager Rob Murphy, a ribbon cutting ceremony will be held at 9 a.m. Ithaca Mayor Alan Cohen ’81 and members of the City of Ithaca Common Council will be in attendance.
“We invited everybody,” said Murphy.
Collegetown currently houses two convenience stores, Jason’s Grocery and Deli and Collegetown Deli and Convenience Store, but Tops Xpress aims to provide a more complete service than a convenience store, according Zakowicz.
“Tops Xpress falls under the convenience store market. It is considered a neighborhood food store, offering more that just a convenience store,” Zakowicz said.
Every branch of the Tops markets chain is privately owned, but all the branches are part of the large conglomerate, Ahold USA, owner of Tops Markets Inc.
“We’ll be the 207th [Tops branch] across [New York] state,” said Murphy. He referred to the new establishment as “a convenient grocery store.”
Widespread support has been firmly behind the opening of a collegetown grocery.
“Some people, myself included, have been encouraging the construction of a grocery store,” said Ithaca Town Council member Josh Glasstetter ’01, fourth ward.
The food store occupies a previously existing commercial space, so approval from the zoning board was not required before construction could begin.
Tops was approached by individuals in the community including Glasstetter about opening a location more convenient for Cornell students.
Glasstetter said that Wegmans was not approached because, “if it doesn’t increase suburban sprawl, Wegman’s won’t touch it.”
Since the 1960’s the Cornell community has been increasing in size and some members of the community feel there is a large enough population to support a grocery store in the Collegetown area.
“[The new store] seems, for the most part, to be a disappointment,” Glasstetter said. “It’s sort of a glorified convenience store. What remains is the incentive to go find a car and go down to Wegmans or Tops. I feel like the space is being squandered.”
At this time the new market has no affiliation with Cornell. However, there are plans to “synergize with the University,” according to Murphy. Whether or not Big Red Bucks or a similar plan of student paying will be offered as a payment option is still undetermined.
Archived article by Christen Eddy