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Latina's closing Elmwood Ave. store The location served a high density of apartment dwellers

Latina's Foodland Fresh is closing its Elmwood Avenue store, but another supermarket operator might soon take its place.

The store will close Saturday, though the exact time has not been set, said Charles Marazzo Jr., president of Latina Niagara Importing Co. His father, Charles Sr., owns the business.

The Elmwood store has about 25 full-time and 25 part-time employees. Marazzo said he is working with Stuyvesant Plaza's owner, Amherst-based Benchmark Group, on bringing in another supermarket operator. He said he could not offer details until a deal is in place.

"There's definitely a need down there, and I think another operator would do well," he said.

Benchmark officials did not return calls to comment on Tuesday.

Latina's opened its supermarket near North Street in June 2005, launching the Marazzo family's expansion into full-service supermarkets. That same year, it opened a store in Clarence and another in Orchard Park. It added one in Batavia last year. But the supermarket business proved difficult for Latina's. Earlier this year, it sold the Clarence location for conversion into a Dash's Market, and closed its store in Orchard Park. The Batavia store remains open.

Marazzo said the family for about a year had been looking at leaving the supermarket business, to focus on its food-service business. The family also operates specialty food stores that are not part of the supermarket closings.

"We just didn't have the right expertise" for supermarkets, he said.

Marazzo said fallout from last October's freak snowstorm dealt a serious financial blow to the supermarket operations, mainly at the Clarence and Orchard Park stores. Insurance payments didn't cover much of the company's product loss while those two stores were temporarily closed, he said.

When Latina's 42,000-square-foot store on Elmwood Avenue opened in summer 2005, city officials hailed it as a welcome replacement for the Quality Markets store, which had shut down a year and a half earlier.

e-mail: mglynn@buffnews.com

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