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commUNITY spotlight: Tops on Jefferson, then and now

Tops on Jefferson was needed and applauded and then 5/14 happened.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — In 2003, Tops opened a new supermarket on Jefferson Avenue to the delight of residents living in the neighborhood. 

Many were forced to travel out of the neighborhood for groceries, but finally, they had a 29,000-square-foot store in their area. 

This was a supermarket that was highly anticipated for the City of Buffalo's east side neighborhood.

On May 14, 2022, the store became a crime scene. A white supremacist, according to authorities, and the shooter's manifesto opened fire outside and inside the store. 13 people were shot, and 10 of the individuals died.

Pastor Julian Cook of Macedonia Baptist Church was filled with emotion as he stood outside the store for an interview with Channel 2's Claudine Ewing and Pete Gallivan for the show commUNITY.

"This is a place that so many of my congregants and fellow community members, students come for their groceries, but it's also where they came to pay their bills. It's also where they came to meet with friends. This was at the center of this corridor and the way in which it has been turned into a site of such tragedy, such racist trauma has just been incredible.

He said people who were not physically hurt are dealing with trauma. 

"I have an 80-year-old woman in my congregation who just a few weeks ago, I had to call her. She was not going to pick up her prescriptions because she didn't want to go into a grocery store, she was terrified," said Cook.

When asked if people in his congregation want the store to re-open, he said, "We are really seeing a mix of, feelings around this. There are some who are saying every time they re-enter this space it will be traumatizing. Others say this should be some type of sacred site, but not shopping. And then there are those who say we fought so hard to get this, that we need to reclaim the space and I can see value on both sides, so for me. as a community leader, the verdict is still out."

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