By Stacey Dresner
WEST HARTFORD – On Sunday morning, March 2, Roger Keroack stood at the door of the Crown Supermarket in West Hartford offering each shopper a freshly-baked cookie and a warm welcome.
The night before – after Shabbat — the entire store had been fully restocked – from its kosher meat counter to the popular “Five O’Clock Shop” to its bakery. The shelves had become bare by last week, after former owner Marc Bokoff announced on Feb. 18 that he, due to economic changes, would soon be forced to close the Bishop’s Corner store, a cultural icon where many in the local Jewish community have shopped for generations.
But on Friday, Feb. 28, the Crown was purchased by a group of community investors, led by philanthropist Henry M. Zachs of Farmington, co-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.
“We went from venerable to vulnerable and now we are viable, thanks to the generosity of the community,” said Keroack, Crown’s director of operations, who will run the store under the new owners. “We will continue to be the gold standard of kosher.”
The Crown’s new owners and board released this statement late last week:
“There are a lot of ‘thank you’s’ to be made, not just to Alan Lazowski, Henry M. Zachs, and Brian Newman, but to our board — Ann Pava, Steve Tempkin, David Gelles, and Bob Samuels, who was critical with the lease negotiations. Thanks also goes to the the staff of the Crown Market, including Roger Keroack and Mark Seltzer, and to the Udolfs, Leonard and Robert.”
The group also thanked its lawyers, John Beck, Tammy Levine and especially Barry Feigenbaum of Rogin Nassau, LLC.
“We also want to thank our growing list of investors, now at 42, who had the faith in the community to buy the Crown Market,” the statement concluded. “Ann Pava will be working diligently with Rabbi’s Adler, Wolvovsky and Weinberg.”
Shoppers were thrilled that the Crown would be remaining open. More than 1,600 community members had signed a petition on change.org to try to keep the longtime kosher market open.
Sandra Myers of West Hartford was one of the people who had signed the petition. On Sunday morning, she and her husband, Mike, were two of the first shoppers at the store when it opened at 8 a.m.
Sandra Myers said she was “devastated” when she heard that the store might close.
“My family has been shopping at Crown since it was in Hartford on Albany Ave. When you need a platter for a simcha, this is where you come,” she said. “I am thrilled that is staying open. We just couldn’t imagine how the whole greater Hartford Jewish community could function without it.”
Mike Ski came Sunday morning all the way from Marlborough, not just to buy some lox, but to check in on the store where shopping for the High Holidays has always been a family tradition.
“I was reading about it reopening and I wanted to come and enjoy the experience,” said Ski, who added that his grandmother Anna Mintz – or Nana – of West Hartford, had shopped at the Crown until she was 99.