Michael Zoitas really loves West Islip, where he will soon be opening a new location for his Southdown Market grocery store.
“It’s really cool,” he told GreaterBayShore recently. “It’s got a lot going on.”
Most importantly he gets a similar vibe from West Islip as he does from Huntington, the North Shore town where he operates the original family-owned Southdown Market.
“It feels like home,” he said.
Zoitas and his two sisters, Barbara and Christina, bought the seven-decade-old Huntington grocery store from its owner, Jacob Gruenfeld, 20 years ago.
“The previous owner ran an old-world style store,” Zoitas said.
By the time the Zoitas family took over from Gruenfeld he had been searching for someone to sell Southdown Market to for a long time, seeking to maintain it as a family run business.
“He wanted to sell it to the right people,” said Zoitas. “He was not in a hurry to sell. We were the family lucky enough to be on the other end of that transaction. He really cared about the customer.”
For this new location in West Islip, the Zoitas family will be taking over the old CVS drugstore at 460 Montauk Highway. Zoitas said the space is about 13,000 to 14,000 square feet and has plenty of parking.
The layout of the new store will be a little different than the original location.
The West Islip Southdown Market will give Zoitas the opportunity to create a space from scratch that will incorporate everything he has learned from his Huntington store.
“It’s the layout that I wish I could have in Huntington,” he said.
Zoitas says he has a loyal following of customers in his original location who know where everything they want in the store by heart.
“It’s an extension of their pantry,” he said. “They can shop blindfolded.”
The new store will feature a layout that Zoitas said emphasizes the way he would have it, knowing what customers respond to after years in the grocery store business.
Construction has been ongoing and he said right now it’s mostly nips and tucks to finish the work. He expects that the store will open for business by the end of the year. Understandably, it’s sometimes the details and finishing touches in a construction project that cause delays.
“If all goes well, my hope is for December but it’s hard to pin down a date,” he said. “We have some things to finish up. I don’t imagine that we will open much later than January.”
The West Islip location will also be called Southdown Market. The name was originally derived from the Huntington neighborhood where the store is located, near Southdown Road.
As for his new store’s offerings, Zoitas said it will have a corner grocery store feel while also reflecting the desires of modern shoppers presenting healthy options and sections that have organic food as well as conventional grocery store items.
For example, he said they will have sections for shoppers looking for replacement food items like quinoa burgers and cauliflower-based rice, popular choices for health-conscious eaters.
Southdown Market will offer over a hundred different homemade items every day in the deli and prepared food areas of the store, including six different salmon dishes, several pasta salads, and a salad station to create your own.
“Everything is made on-premise,” he said.
Of course, they also have fresh produce and meat for sale and there will be a mix of dry goods and traditional staple items.
His appeal is that Southdown Market is smaller than a big-box grocery store where it’s more convenient to shop. They also pride themselves on quick check-outs.
“We pay a lot of attention to the customer,” Zoitas said.
The location in West Islip is also an extension of that mindset.
“What I really like about it is that it’s close to the homes,” he said. “It has a local feel.”
Top: Southdown Market new location on Montauk Highway in West Islip (credit: Nicholas Esposito).