“Hate will not win — not today — not tomorrow — not ever,” declared Letitia James, New York State Attorney General.
James appeared with a number of local leaders and Tops Markets officials to kick off a ceremony before offering an invite-only tour of the newly renovated Tops on Jefferson Avenue.
The store is now ready to reopen Friday morning to the public two months after ten people were murdered and three were injured at the Tops by what investigators say was a white supremacist who came to Buffalo to specifically target and shoot Blacks.
The attorney general says the Buffalo community is unmovable and unshakable.
“Because they are Jefferson Strong, East Buffalo Strong, Buffalo Strong,” James remarked.
Following a re-dedication ceremony, the store was unveiled to invited guests.
It was just an incredible moment to be able to walk inside the newly renovated tops store to see how this store was transformed creating some very new, positive energy.
But before anyone entered the store, a big ceremony took place to honor each of the ten victims who died — each name read as a bell tolled.
From the moment you enter the store, everything is new and enhanced.
Tops leaders have worked to create a much better store for this community to help combat local food insecurity and with a commitment that grows even deeper.
From improved products to produce.
Tops president John Persons says he received hundreds of phone calls and letters from the community asking for a better store and they listened.
“We now have 1,200 to 1,300 organic items in the store and we didn't have that level before — health and healthy wellness was certainly a key element of the feedback,” replied Persons.
And when it comes to safety, several new enhancements have been added. That includes increased security both inside and outside the store and teaming with the Buffalo Police Department for a Buffalo Safe Cam Surveillance camera to oversee the intersections of Landon and Riley.
“How will that help and enhance — obviously seeing something that could happen?” Buckley questioned.
“I think that's a wonderful collaboration — with the city of Buffalo Police Department — that will give them the opportunity to understand exactly what's happening on our property at all times,” responded Persons.
Employee Jordan Osborne says he feels safe coming back into the store.
“I definitely feel 100 percent safe coming back into this establishment. A lot more security will be present,” noted Osborne.
Osborne, who wasn’t working, on the day of the May 14 mass shooting, says he wanted to return.
“My coworkers were in here that day — they were in here the day the shooter was in here, so if they can still come back after experiencing what they experienced then I can do the same,” reflected Osborne.
Tops say 75 percent of the workers at this store have decided to return.
Community members were also invited to check out the newly renovated store.
Marnetta Malcolm was very pleased with the newly designed and enhanced market.
“The essence of it —you can feel — it's like a really great space and you feel some type of spiritualness with it as well — the symbols out there are very powerful,” Malcolm said.
There are many other great features inside the store including large screens with rotating photos of community members, a beautiful fountain with a poem, and the outside windows feature accent African symbols.
Mayor Byron Brown stated the supermarket is “sacred ground”.
Tops say out of respect, it will quietly open to the public Friday morning.