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NEW MARKET TRIES SMALLER-IS-BETTER IMAGE

The newest supermarket in West Seneca is attempting to reach its customers using old-time methods.

The Market in the Square opened Tuesday, filling the vacancy left at the Southgate Plaza on Union Road when Quality Markets closed its store there last spring.

But instead of going head to head with the Tops and Wegmans of the grocery world, the new store is trying to carve out a new niche. It isn't chain-affiliated, and it's squarely aimed at countering the mega-stores.

"A lot of the complaints people have about the supermarkets today is they're too crowded, congested," said Brian Kusmierski, who owns the store with Lee Bongiovanni. "So we wanted it to be open like an open-air market. Let them feel comfortable and not closed in, and get that open-air Broadway Market kind of effect.

"Our concept is no games, no gimmicks, no cards. . . . Fast in and out," he said.

It's a concept that seemed to appeal to the customers -- a majority of them senior citizens -- who crowded the store on opening day.

"We needed something like this," said Jim Hens, a senior citizen. "It's not real big. And it's manageable for the customer."

"We hate the big ones," said his wife, Marge.

The store also fills a gap at Southgate, which Supervisor Paul T. Clark said has come to be the heart of the community. There are no malls in West Seneca, and the major supermarket superstores are near the former Seneca Mall site near the Lackawanna border and just over the border in Orchard Park.

"I used to live right up here on Union Road, and for the past 40 years (since the plaza was built), I've regarded this area as basically the center of town," said Clark. "It's a social site. People meet neighbors here. . . . It's so terrific to see this tradition will continue."

Kusmierski, who is from Tonawanda, has spent 30 years in the food business, most recently working for Fleming Cos., a grocery wholesale distributor. Bongiovanni, from Amherst, is also the founder of Gift Express, a company specializing in gift baskets for retail outlets.

Although the Quality store has only been closed six months, Kusmierski said he and Bongiovanni had been developing the store's concept and lining up financing for nearly 1 1/2 years.

"The community has been just wanting a supermarket here for the longest period of time," said Kusmierski. "We couldn't open fast enough. They wanted us to open as soon as Quality closed, but it took a little time to get it ready."

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