There are at least 66 supermarkets operating in Hudson County, including 20 in Jersey City, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.
Some towns stand to lose their neighborhood supermarkets in this economy, while others have recently gained larger Walmart stores.
The Acme Supermarket on Garfield Avenue near the Jersey City/Bayonne border is closing its doors on Feb. 6, but a Fine Fare Supermarket is slated to open in the same space in the near future. Meanwhile, Walmart recently opened its first grocery store in Hudson County with a 24-hour “supercenter” located in North Bergen. Several shoppers interviewed at the opening said they had come there from Jersey City.
Some residents would like to see a Whole Foods in the area.
Last month, the Shop-Rite on Avenue C in Bayonne re-opened after being closed for nearly a year, expanding to a 70,000 square-foot store with underground parking.
But what else is on the horizon?
Steve Gallo, chief of staff for Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith, said last week that there are no plans for any new supermarkets opening in Bayonne in the near future. However, a Walmart is coming to the future mall at 22nd Street off Rte. 169 known as Bayonne Crossing. A Lowe’s Hardware will also anchor the spot.
Gallo said there are already several supermarkets in different parts of the city, each serving a different location. Besides the ShopRite on Avenue C, there is a Stop & Shop off Rte. 169, A&P on Avenue A near Sixth Street, and C-Town on Broadway.
“Bayonne has always had competitive supermarket business because of the proximity of stores from the people they are serving, whether it’s Stop & Shop on the highway for people who have a car or the ones in the inner city like ShopRite for pedestrians and the elderly,” Gallo said.
Jersey City also has its share of supermarkets, including two downtown near the Newport Mall: ShopRite and A&P.
Dan Frohwirth, director of real estate for the Jersey City Economic Development Corporation, said any conversations with supermarket chains usually center on whether there is “sizable” retail space and parking.
The median square footage of a supermarket was 47,500 as of 2007, according to the Food Marketing Institute, an Arlington, Va.-based food retailer organization.
Frohwirth said the more recent supermarket to open is the Morton Williams located within the Shore Club condo building within the Newport community in downtown Jersey City. The store has been open since July 2008, and attracts most of its consumers from the Newport area.
Frohwirth, who also lives in the Shore Club building, lauded the store for not only being “clean” but also for being open up to midnight to accommodate tenants’ last-minute grocery requests.
He noted that two smaller markets or mini-supermarkets are in the works for Monticello Avenue in the city’s Bergen-Lafayette section.
Whole Foods downtown?
For downtown Jersey City residents, the target audience of this newspaper, “Whole Foods” has a ring of familiarity. That’s because they have been clamoring for years to see the Austin, Tex.-based organic mega-retailer open a store in their area. So far, there are none in Hudson County.
Residents have posted on internet bulletin boards like JCList and New York Sixth about the Whole Foods obsession. But in fact, there have been real-world discussions to bring them to Jersey City.
Longtime developer Peter Mocco, responsible for the massive Liberty Harbor development off Grand Street in downtown Jersey City, has been and still is in negotiations to bring a “high-end food store” such as Whole Foods to Liberty Harbor. But there’s a catch.
“The kind of dilemma that I deal with is the idea of single stand-alone supermarket building that would be an interim solution, but would have to be taken down when I build a much a larger building that would allow for a food store on the ground floor,” Mocco said.
Mocco said he has not been able to build a larger-size mixed use residential-retail building due to the current economic market.
The Acme Supermarket at the Jersey City-Bayonne border looked nearly dead during a recent visit.
Shelves in certain areas are either completely empty or nearly so, with signs hanging off them saying 33 percent off. A man was filling his carts with cases of soda.
One longtime customer, Katherine Brown, said she will miss the Acme management that she got to know over the last 10 years.
“I will miss all my friends, who all treated me with respect and were always helpful, even if they were busy,” Brown said.
Standing near the half-empty dairy aisle were four men looking over architectural plans for the Fine fare store. One of them identified himself as the owner. He referred questions to the spokesperson standing next to him, Steven Felber.
Felber said that his company will remodel the store and confirmed that it will be a Fine Fare store. But did not say when it will open.
A follow-up phone call to Felber was not returned by press time.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.