By Lauren Wanko
This morning the Foodtown of South Amboy didn’t open for business. The checkout lines are now empty. The familiar rattle of the shopping cart is replaced by the constant hum of the refrigeration and nearly every shelf is bare.
“Like everybody else we were struggling the last few years with the economy,” said owner Ed Paczkowski. “But when the hurricane came, we lost power for 11 days. That was the killer.”
Paczkowski was forced to throw all the perishables away after the storm — meat, dairy, frozen food and deli and bakery items. More than $100,000 worth of food was tossed out.
“We had three dumpsters of good food that were thrown away,” Paczkowski said. “We just couldn’t absorb the loss.”
The family-run business has been operating for 84 years. It’s the only supermarket in South Amboy. That means residents now have to leave town to find the next big grocery store chain.
“We feel for the people that walk, the elder people and all. They’re the ones that are really going to miss it,” Paczkowski said.
And then there are the employees. More than 40 people are now forced to look for a new job, like Assistant Store Manager Nancy Orlowski. She’s worked at the supermarket for more than 30 years.
“We are only nine aisles in our store and sometimes it would take you quite some time to make your way through those nine aisles because you’d always be stopped by somebody that you knew, or family or friends,” said Orlowski.
Paczkowski’s son Frank worked in the meat department for 27 years.
“It’s hurtful, it’s very hurtful. I could cry right now. It’s very sad,” said Frank Paczkowski.
“Of course I’m very heartbroken, disappointed. I don’t think it has sunk in yet because for all my 75 years I have been here,” Ed Paczkowski said.
Ed Paczkowski hopes another grocer will soon take over the facility so residents in South Amboy will have their supermarket back. Meantime, the empty building will serve as yet another reminder of all the damage Sandy caused.