Editor’s note: The video associated with this story was removed because it misidentified those participating in the March Against Violence. We apologize for the error.
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s been more than 24 hours since the Tops on Jefferson Ave. reopened to customers after the mass shooting at the store in May.
Emotions are running high in the community as people disagree on whether reopening the store was the right decision. After significant renovations, Tops opened its doors Friday morning to customers who have been without a grocery store for two months. The remodeled store includes a new layout, design and security plan. It also features a memorial to the 10 lives lost and the three others who were injured in the racially-motivated mass shooting.
Some patrons have returned to the store to shop, while others are not sure if they will ever step foot in there again.
“You should feel safe about coming down here,” one resident told News 4.
Not everyone agrees with that sentiment. Demonstrators marched outside of the Tops on Saturday against the store’s reopening. Many say it is sacred ground and that the store reopened without community input.
“We’re demanding that there be a public meeting. An opportunity for the community to weigh in on what should be here, which did not happen. That is bad leadership,” protester Jalonda Hill said.
For weeks, Tops and elected officials have been saying the store would reopen and that without it, the food dessert here would get worse. New York State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes says her office has received many calls from concerned residents who believe the stops should stay closed. She said the community needs this grocery store now more than ever before.
“I listen to all of those comments and quite frankly everybody’s opinion is important, but more important than that is that people need to have access to what’s offered in this store, not two years from now, not a year from now, right now,” Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes said.
Some wonder whether a new store could be built in a new location.
“We need a grocery store. But it don’t have to be this particular one where our elders was massacred,” another demonstrator said.
People in support of the Tops remaining on Jefferson Ave. said they will not live in fear.
“This is the only one in our community here and we got to to utilize it. We can’t be afraid. We can’t let what happened to us define who we are. We know who we are as a community and as a community, we stand together,” a Buffalo resident said Saturday.
During a prayer outside of the Tops before it reopened, Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen called for unity.
“Although we have mixed emotions, one thing we do know is we are better together,” Pridgen said.
Hill is calling for a community meeting to discuss what should happen with the Tops. She hopes to hold that meeting in the coming weeks at the Merriweather Library on Jefferson Avenue, which is just blocks away from Tops.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.