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Jul 30, 2009 9:21 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Waldbaum's backs out of mural project in Westhampton Beach

Jul 30, 2009 9:21 AM

A local Girl Scout Troop’s plans to beautify the windows of the old National’s store in Westhampton Beach were called off after executives who own Waldbaum’s, and also the vacant building next to it, declined to completely fund the project.

Plans had been in place since late June for members of Westhampton Beach Junior Girl Scout Troop 759 to paint a mural that would hang in the windows of the vacant store, which is located next door to the Sunset Avenue supermarket.

But Troop 759 Leader Sabina Trager of Westhampton Beach and Village Trustee Joan Levan called off the beautification project last week when they learned that executives at the Montvale, New Jersey, corporation that owns Waldbaum’s, the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, would give them only $100 for supplies.

“We probably need approximately $400 in paper, paint and brushes to cover the whole space, as large as it is,” Ms. Trager said.

She added that the mural was designed to be about 70 feet long and 7 feet high, large enough to cover the brown paper now occupying the store’s windows.

Ms. Trager explained that about a dozen Junior Girl Scouts, who are either 9 or 10 years old, had signed up for the project and were going to complete it in order to earn their Bronze Award, a community service honor. The girls have been doing other service work to earn the award, such as planting flowers at the toddler park on Mill Road in Westhampton Beach, Ms. Trager said.

Ms. Levan, who has led the crusade to get Waldbaum’s to improve the appearance of its Sunset Avenue store, said she was furious when she discovered that the project would not happen because of a lack of funding.

“What bothers me the most is that we’re talking about a store where they charge higher prices for food in Westhampton Beach than in Center Moriches or Riverhead,” Ms. Levan said, noting that the company charges higher prices for certain products in the village. “Yet they cannot afford to shell out $400 for a community art project?”

Ms. Levan said when executives approved the project at a meeting in late June, they did not discuss money. She assumed it would not be an issue.

Representatives with the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company did not return calls or e-mails seeking comment this week.

Ms. Trager said the mural was going to feature vibrant, lively images that would be visible from Sunset Avenue. She had enlisted the help of Amy Hess, the owner of Amy’s Ark Studio in Westhampton, and Lise Frielinghaus, an art teacher at Westhampton Beach Middle School, to design the mural.

“We were planning on doing flowers and fish,” Ms. Trager said. “Bold, happy images people would want to see.”

The National’s store has been vacant for at least three years. In 2007, Westhampton Beach granted Waldbaum’s the necessary permits to expand the supermarket into the adjoining and vacant building. The company later abandoned those plans, citing financial issues.

Since then, some grocery shoppers in the Westhampton area have been critical of the conditions in Waldbaum’s, stating that the store appears dirty and the prices of certain products are inflated.

Ms. Levan set the beautification project in motion in late June after meeting with Waldbaum’s executives to discuss ongoing issues at the Westhampton Beach store, such as the cleanliness of the supermarket, the freshness of its produce, and the poor condition of the parking lot. Waldbaum’s recently installed new coolers and a new drainage system in the parking lot before repaving it.

Despite those improvements, Ms. Levan said she still urged supermarket officials to clean up the appearance of the vacant building.

“When you see the National’s, it looks like we’re a town that’s getting boarded up,” she said. “I thought about getting children to paint the windows.”

Ms. Levan said she received approval from Waldbaum’s executives to undertake the beautification project in June, before reaching out to Ms. Trager. The troop leader said she had been working on scheduling a date for the painting of the mural and coordinating with Diane Cassone, the manager for the Westhampton Beach Waldbaum’s on purchasing supplies.

But those plans were called off when Ms. Trager and Ms. Levan learned that they would not receive full funding for the project.

After learning that management would not pony up the money, some employees of the supermarket offered to start a collection and donate $400 to the Junior Girl Scouts. But both Ms. Levan and Ms. Trager said that taking money from Waldbaum’s employees would not be right.

“Why should we pay to beautify Waldbaum’s space?” Ms. Trager said, adding that both she and Ms. Levan have friends who would be willing to donate to the project.

Ms. Trager added that her Junior Girl Scouts are disappointed that the project had to be called off.

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Mrs. Levan "assumed" that money would not be an issue?

No additional comment required.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jul 28, 09 2:45 PM
We would be honored to pay the $400 for supplies. Still missing Nationals after all these years, where my mom used to buy me a match box car every other week. Contact the store if any of the direct parties are interested.
By Aspatuck Gardens (30), Westhampton Beach on Jul 28, 09 9:57 PM
Waldbaum's corporation as a whole is very anti-community. A while back I went to Waldbaum's to ask for a donation and I was treated like a perp by the store management, I ended up walking out in dusgust and I will never shop at a Waldbaums ever again. Stop and Shop was more than helpful...
By politcal pawn (121), Flanders on Jul 29, 09 6:00 PM
Bring Back National's and the Bowling Alley!! These huge buildings should be tenanted and, if they are not tenanted within a certain amount of time, huge fines should be imposed by the town equivalent to lost sales taxes (based on taxes paid in prior years). The owners of these stores are leaving them empty to speculate and obtain a higher price when the economy turns around. This is occurring in NYC, where commercial landlords refuse to lower commercial rents in this down economy, leaving whole ...more
By lulubelle1956 (24), Westhampton Beach on Jul 30, 09 7:56 AM
2 members liked this comment
Ms. Lulubelle1956, is what you are suggesting really the "business" of the local Government? It really sounds like a job for a Chamber of Commerce, doesn't it?

Remember, the Governemt which dictates business practices is a step on a slippery slope away from your bedroom.

Now I gather that there are competing merchants' groups in your area and that much of their energy is dedicated to messing with each other, but someone should approach them and suggest that finding a tenant for ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jul 30, 09 11:42 AM
By the way, you want to bring back National's? I've love to bring back Edward Archer's, Sears and McCabe's, all places along the 11901 Main Street we supported for decades!
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jul 30, 09 11:46 AM
With a pair of scissors, the girl scouts could make a cut-out mural of the existing brown paper in the store window. Not everything in life costs money. With a little imagination and determination these apparent 'hurdles' could easily be overcome. And if there isn't a girl scout patch for resourcefulness, then they should invent one!
By greenpea (3), Quiogue on Jul 30, 09 1:33 PM
1 member liked this comment
I remember having to go to Nationals to buy a gym uniform for WHB high school.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Jul 31, 09 10:58 AM
Mr. Wheeler: The Chamber of Commerce has done nothing about the empty National's storefront now for at least 5 years. Taxing businesses that puprposely lie fallow (and fail to provide taxes or jobs in the community, let alone services), is the only way to ensure that WHB does NOT turn into Main Street Riverhead. By the way, what did the Chamber of Commerce ever do for Main Street Riverhead? Your "hand's off" approach, and that of the Chamber of Commerce, leads only to the very degredation of ...more
By lulubelle1956 (24), Westhampton Beach on Jul 31, 09 11:00 PM
Dear Lulubelle -- unless your municipality has some unusual property tax structure which differentiates between an active business and one which "lies fallow," I believe that you are in error about "providing taxes to the community."

Jobs, of course. (But then I recall someone making a point in the mid-1980s about A&P "bussing" in their $6/hour workers from western Suffolk because none of the local youth wanted to work such a job at that wage when there were so many better-paying jobs in ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Aug 1, 09 12:06 PM
Paint right on the inside of the window with window paints! Come on Girl Scouts...some ingenuity here!
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Aug 1, 09 7:32 PM
1 member liked this comment
I spoke with an employee @ Aspatuck Garndens on Saturday about this and he had no clue as to what I was talking about. He just laughed and seemed surprised.
By Miss K. (103), East Quogue on Aug 4, 09 7:02 PM
Hey. assuming you talked to Paul or Ben, I haven't discussed it with them. We are involved with numerous charities, so it's not really water cooler talk. Anyways, just trying to help out. --- Chris Connolly
By Aspatuck Gardens (30), Westhampton Beach on Aug 4, 09 8:01 PM
Oh, and a update.. No one has called.
By Aspatuck Gardens (30), Westhampton Beach on Aug 4, 09 8:03 PM
By EEGO (10), Bridgehampton on Aug 9, 09 8:44 AM