By Judie Jacobson
WEST HARTFORD – A group of community leaders, led by three prominent businessmen, all active leaders in the Greater Hartford Jewish community, this week announced that it has raised money to buy The Crown Market in West Hartford to ensure that the business continues to run without interruption.
As the Ledger went to press, the group of approximately 25 investors – organized and led by philanthropist Henry M. Zachs of Farmington, founder and CEO of Message Center Management; Alan Lazowski of Hartford, chief executive of LAZ Parking; and Brian Newman of West Hartford, a partner at CohnReznick and past president of the Mandell Jewish Community Center — was preparing to ink an agreement that would give them ownership of the 74-year-old kosher food market, which had been slated to close due to economic challenges.
The push to purchase the store from its current owner, Marc Bokoff, gained strength last week, after Bokoff announced on Tuesday, Feb. 18 that he would soon be forced to permanently shutter the doors of the popular Bishops Corner store. Zachs, Lazowski and Newman reacted swiftly.
“We had a conversation with Marc, who has been completely on board and has really worked with us to make this happen. Then we set out to raise money to purchase the market. We have raised significant funds from all kinds of people in the community – people came through beautifully,” Zachs told the Ledger.
Next, the three men sat down with the Crown’s landlord, Leonard Udolf of Udolf Properties, to renegotiate the lease. When it looked as if an agreement was nearly at hand, reports Zachs, it was Lazowski who sealed the deal. “You know what you’ve bought yourself, Lenny?” the affable Lazowski asked Udolf. “You’ve bought yourself a big hug.” “And you’ve got a deal,” Udolf responded.
According to Zachs, under the store’s new ownership, Roger Keroac, who has served as the store’s director of operations for the past 10 years, will take over as manager, reporting directly to Zachs, Lazowski and Newman. In addition, the new owners will also look to modernize the facility to make it more relevant to current shoppers’ needs.
The news that Crown is not closing could not be more welcome to the store’s loyal – and substantial — cadre of Jewish shoppers, for whom The Crown Market has been more than simply a place to purchase groceries and kosher items. It is a cultural icon; a place where many of their families have been shopping for generations. When news of the store’s closing spread throughout the Jewish community last week, 1,650 dismayed shoppers quickly added their names to a change.org petition, seeking to keep the store’s doors open.
“We are blessed to have a community that cares so deeply about saving this precious asset, as well as saving valuable jobs. We are honored to be part of this local community-wide effort, all working together toward the common goal of ensuring that The Crown Market, a fixture in West Hartford for nearly a century, can continue to thrive for future generations,” said Zachs. “This is an exciting new beginning.”