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Gala Fresh Farms planned for vacant King Kullen store in Riverhead

Luis Correa

The former King Kullen store on Route 58 could be re-occupied by Christmas, according to the operator of the store that will be taking its place.

Luis Correa of Aurora Group has signed a 30-year lease on the 38,500-square-foot storefront and plans to re-open it as Gala Fresh Farms, a subsidiary of Compare Foods.

“It’s a full-service supermarket,” Mr. Correa said in an interview Monday.

The Riverhead store was going to be a Compare Foods, which has about 50 stores nationwide, but Mr. Correa said it was changed last week to Gala.

“I thought that brand would be more appropriate out here,” he said.

“We’re going to add a fresh seafood department that is going to pretty much blow away all the rest of the seafood departments out here,” he continued. “I’ve got guys coming in with a lot of experience in that department. We’ll be going to the Fulton Fish Market in New York City two to three times a week to buy fresh fish.”

Mr. Correa said Gala will have a large organic foods section. It’s undecided whether it will also have an in-store pharmacy.

The goal is to open the new store before Christmas. A target date is Dec. 18, which Mr. Correa said will be a tight squeeze.

Gala Fresh Farms will be joining a competitive supermarket field in Riverhead, even with King Kullen and Waldbaum’s now gone. Stop and Shop, Best Yet Market, ALDI, Walmart and Target all sell groceries.

“Everybody wants a piece of the grocery business now,” Mr. Correa said.

There is one other Gala Fresh Farms store on Long Island opening soon in Baldwin, he said, although more stores are in the works.

Mr. Correa had actually proposed a Compare Foods for Riverhead in 2009 at a proposed location behind the Friendly’s restaurant on Route 58. He withdrew the application following opposition from neighbors at a public hearing, as the proposed store was near homes on Ackerly Street.

He said he’s had his eye on Riverhead for some time.

“I’ve loved Riverhead since 2000. I said, ‘This is where we have to be,’ ” Mr. Correa said. “I was looking for the right opportunity. I just wanted to get out here wherever we could.”

That opportunity came when a broker connected him with Phillips International, the company that owns the shopping center where King Kullen and Walmart used to be.

“We hope to have community support here,” he said. “This store had been here for decades and before that it was another supermarket. We’re here to serve the community and we hope to be as competitive as we can with our pricing.”

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Photo: Luis Correa at the former King Kullen store in Riverhead. He’s planning to open Gala Fresh Farms there next month. (Credit: Tim Gannon)