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More than a market, a symbol of renewal: Belle Harbor Waldbaum’s reopens after Sandy

Posted at 7:20 PM, Feb 23, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-24 00:48:09-05

BELLE HARBOR, QUEENS (PIX11)–  “Hello Sir, good afternoon.  Welcome back to Waldbaum’s”

It may sound like a simple greeting, but for shoppers in Belle Harbor it’s so much more.

For the first time since Hurricane Sandy destroyed their community, many people were finally able to pick up groceries at the neighborhood supermarket thanks to the grand re-opening of Waldbaum’s.

Its an emotional day for Waldbaum’s manager Joe Prongay, “there’s nothing better than seeing 2,000 customers come in here and just welcome them back to the neighborhood store.”

Shopper Sonia Cassata describes the vibe in the store, “it’s wonderful, you can feel the happiness in the air throughout the store.”

A store that, like many of the homes in the area, had to be completely gutted after Sandy.

Store Manager Joe Prongay says the company wanted to rebuild the bigger and better, so they could be here for the people living in the neighborhood as they too try to rebuild.

“We just couldn’t wait to open the doors and get back to business in this community to help them out.”

“Sure the salad dressings might not be in the same aisle, but people who’ve come to the grand re-opening of Waldbaum’s here in Belle Harbor say it’s as much about finding familiar faces as it is about finding groceries.”

For Breezy Point resident Patty Cashman it’s much more than a simple store opening, “It’i a feeling of healing and getting back together again it’s just nice to see everybody that we missed for so long.”

And the reunion isn’t just for the customers.  Employees at the store say it’s great to get back to work, especially knowing how much they were missed.

“Seeing my lovely customers, seeing their smiles and faces seeing the store back, look at how beautiful it looks,” said employee Ralph Satterwhite.

And as they check out the new check-out, and fill their carts for their families, many shoppers say they’re one step closer to returning to life before Sandy.

“They needed this store to feel like the community is getting back together.”

“Having Waldbaum’s here is absolutely fantastic, it’s a lifesaver.”