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Residents fought for years to bring Tops to Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo

Project took years for Buffalo's east side
Jefferson Ave Tops opens in 2003
Posted at 1:54 PM, May 19, 2022

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A supermarket in a food desert was a prayer answered for neighbors in the heart of Buffalo's Black community.

Years of work became temporarily shattered for Masten Park and Kingsley residents Saturday, when a gunman killed ten innocent people and injured three others at the Jefferson Avenue Tops Friendly Markets.

Authorities say the 18-year-old suspect targeted the Tops because of its location in a predominantly Black neighborhood.

The City of Buffalo and Tops began work in the late 1990s to bring the Western New York supermarket chain to the east side.

Negotiations were underway for two years prior to Jefferson Avenue, between Landon and Riley Streets, becoming approved as the location.

In September 2001, the Buffalo Common Council gave the project a green light, something many residents celebrated as they would no longer be without a large and convenient grocery store.

"With an agency like Tops moving into the area, we send a message that there is an environment to do business,” Archie Amos told former 7 News Reporter Helen Tederous following the announcement.

Ground was broken on the site over a year later in 2002. Community leaders celebrated the major advance, which would also bring over 100 new jobs to the community.

The 29,000 square foot store meant customers no longer had to travel to a suburb or the other side of town to get groceries.

Residents walked into the Tops location for the first time in July 2003.

“It's a day where the community finally gets to have a grocery store in the community, close enough, accessible enough to them in the neighborhood,” said store Manager Virgil Hamm at the grand opening.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Tops wrote there is no timeline for reopening, as the store remains an active scene for law enforcement. However, store leaders have the intention of repairing the store in as short a period of time as possible.

As the Tops remains closed, several local organizations are helping bring food to neighbors living in the area. To learn how you can help, click here.