Upper West Siders witnessed the opening salvo last week of what could be one messy food fight. Customers of the venerable Fairway on Broadway and 74th Street were a-twitter over signs throughout the store proclaiming furiously that it is “in no way” affiliated with FreshDirect.com.
Ads for the online grocer claim that FreshDirect’s founder, Joe Fedele, was a co-founder of Fairway Uptown. But David Sneddon, co-owner of Fairway, begs to differ. He says Fedele wasn’t a co-founder and is trading on Fairway’s name to launch his venture. “He’s done a good job of deceiving.” According to Sneddon, Fedele once owned a store called By Choice, located where Fairway’s Harlem branch now stands. When By Choice filed for Chapter 11 in 1994, Fairway bought the site and opened its store with Fedele as operations manager. Sneddon says the partners bought out Fedele in 1998.
“It’s unfair for us to build our business and have somebody make it sound like Fairway was his idea,” Sneddon says. Fedele’s response? “They’re afraid of us having better products and better prices.” With 75,000 customers in Manhattan, FreshDirect is making headway. Fedele affirms his Fairway Uptown–co-founder status: “The largest shareholder of that store was me, the guy who owned the property.”
Besides, he adds, FreshDirect never claimed to be part of Fairway. But some customers have made that leap. “I feel duped. I thought they used the same suppliers,” says Alyssa Gelper, a lawyer. But would she order from FreshDirect again? Yes.