STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — New HL Supermarket opened for its inaugural weekend just days before Thanksgiving. The sprawling grocery store at 2380 Hylan Blvd. features an inventory of produce, fish, meat, sundries and items particular to Chinese cooking.
Shoppers packed aisles of the store, former home to the Excelsior Grand and Shalimar catering halls. The building now has its entrance facing what used to be its rear with a parking lot abutting New Dorp High School. A former grand entrance to the facility is now a parking lot for about two dozen cars.
Offerings include bins piled high with fruits and vegetables, dried mushrooms in bulk and an aisle dedicated to noodles. Banks of refrigeration include dairy and beer displays. Cookware and beauty products are copious in the inventory. Near the entry/exit is a long counter from which meat and live fish are sold. One customer was overjoyed to find whole eel freshly put down and bagged for dressing at home. She came to the store specifically looking to find the item.
“Hurry up and get this! They’re going to run out,” she encouraged. As she said this while holding onto her cart, she stood in standstill for several minutes in a gridlocked parking lot.
LOVING THE STORE
For the most part, customers loved what they saw, based on a casual survey on Sunday and feedback on social media.
East Shore neighbor Diane Boland observed the bustle at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and shared with the Advance/SILIVE.com, “It was a mad house, but to be expected because we’ve all been waiting so long for an Asian market! It is absolutely amazing! Huge! They cater to all Asian ethnicities. The staff were all so helpful especially to those of us that didn’t know what certain items were.”
Boland added, “The drawbacks are going to be real problems. The entry into the lot is down an extremely narrow street with cars parked on both sides. The poor people that live there are probably going to lose their collective minds. Cars turning in off the boulevard can’t proceed if cars are waiting at the light to get out. There is no turning lane off [Hylan] Boulevard.”
Based on the traffic congestion on Sunday from 11 a.m. to about 1 p.m., the concern seemed founded. Although Otis Avenue was indicated on a sign to be the entry point for HL, cars entered the lot mainly via Locust Avenue. Even with a store worker directing cars to an exit on Otis Avenue, snarl-ups occurred continuously within the lot. Additionally, drivers looking for spots used the shopping complex across the street for a turnaround.
An ER nurse at Staten Island University Hospital, Boland also shared concerns about cross contamination in open food displays and hopes it will be addressed by management. From her shopping experience, she reported, “Inside the market there are lots of open bins with fish, lobsters, clams, dried shrimp, mussels etc. People were using their hands to put items in bags! Digging in the lobster tank or the dried scallops and especially the bean sprouts — hands in everything…and hands are a major way illness is transmitted.”
She said, “They seriously need to rethink the customer helping themselves with items that should be behind a counter or under a protective guard. With all that said, I will still shop there and I’m excited for the opportunity to try some new things.”
St. George resident Jim Callaghan was touched by frenzy which reminded him of his own family’s history coming to the United States. After a tour of the venue he said, “Another great day for America. Newcomers making their mark, as our grandparents did. Don’t tell me America is not going to make it.”
HL Supermarket’s flagship operation is in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn at 6722 Fort Hamilton Pkwy. By its Staten Island operation’s expansiveness, it has become the largest Asian food market in the borough. Runner up would be Asian Foods of Mariners Harbor, opened earlier this fall at the Roman Plaza. The latter store had closed in December 2018 in Travis to relocate to the new shopping complex at 2343 Forest Ave. The two markets address the booming Asian population in the borough that has grown substantially since 2010.
Pamela Silvestri is Advance Food Editor. She can be reached at [email protected].