A supermarket makeover 20 years in the making: Englewood ShopRite

Take a peek inside the newly renovated ShopRite of Englewood Anne-Marie Caruso, Visual Journalist, @AnneCarusoPhoto

(Photo: Anne-Marie Caruso/NorthJersey.com)

The owners of the ShopRite in the Palisades Court shopping center in downtown Englewood knew that they wanted to make their store bigger. What they didn’t know then was that it would take nearly two decades to make that happen.

Along the way, they faced complaints that an expansion would encroach on the adjacent residential neighborhood, and a lengthy municipal approval process that ultimately required the ShopRite owners to buy and demolish nearby houses, and then build and sell new houses.

Now, it looks like they had perfect timing.

As the store prepares to unveil the completed renovation with a grand re-opening event beginning June 10, the delay may have given them a competitive advantage.

It allowed them to create a store that reflects the latest trends in a supermarket industry that is changing more rapidly than ever in North Jersey. The store has embraced the supermarket-as-restaurant trend, and become a place where shoppers are just as likely to pick up ready-to-eat prepared foods as they are to grocery shop for cooking ingredients.

ShopRite in Englewood has been recently renovated with a variety of new and expanded departments. A shopper looks at produce on Tuesday May 29, 2018.
Sushi, deli and more

A 22,000 square-foot-addition gave the store room to expand its kosher and fresh produce departments, and to add sushi and ramen stations, a deli that makes sandwiches to order, a char grill with Jamaican Jerk and Caribbean-marinated whole chicken and a hot soup station.

If the store had remodeled 10, five, or even just three years ago, it would already be outdated.

ShopRite in Englewood has been recently renovated with a variety of new and expanded departments. The sushi counter offer sushi and ramen to order. Shown on Tuesday May 29, 2018.

“We have plans from 20 years ago and those plans didn’t include the kitchens. They didn’t include as big produce department, or as big a seafood department,” said Andrew Kent, executive vice president of Glass Gardens, Inc., the Rochelle Park-based company that owns the Englewood store and 10 other ShopRites, including stores in Paramus and Rochelle Park.

“The trends that have changed in food retail since we envisioned this store is a real focus on fresh, and a real focus on food service,” Kent said.

ShopRite in Englewood has been recently renovated with a variety of new and expanded departments. Shown on Tuesday May 29, 2018. Timothy Leonard, a fish clerk, puts out fresh seafood.

The populations of Englewood and the surrounding towns have also changed over the years, creating demand for expanded kosher, Caribbean, and Hispanic food offerings. Consumer tastes have changed as well, causing a need to carve out space for gluten-free, organic, no sugar added, and other health-conscious offerings.

“The real theme of the store is more of everything for everybody,” Kent said.

The store, which originally opened in 1993 in the then brand-new Palisades Court center, now has grown to 77,400 square feet. It employs 300 workers.

The store completed its makeover at a time when North Jersey supermarkets are experiencing intense competition, with new rivals like Wegman’s and discounter Aldi entering the market, and ethnic supermarkets like HMart, Gourmanoff, and Uncle Giuseppe cutting into sales at traditional stores.

Glass Gardens declined to reveal how much it spent on the remodel, but said it is its most extensive store makeover to date.

A top food player

Glass Gardens is part of the New Jersey-based food wholesale cooperative, Wakefern Food Corp., which is made up of local owners considered some of the best operators in the supermarket industry. Supermarket News, in a 2016 report, ranked Glass Gardens number 13th among the top 50 small grocery chains in the country.

Supermarket News estimated Glass Gardens’ 2015 sales for its 11 stores at $713 million, a sales volume equal to chains having three or four times as many stores.

The Englewood store is unique, Kent said, because of the diversity of the communities surrounding it. While Glass Gardens has supermarkets elsewhere in New Jersey and New York that have a focus on one particular ethnic group near the store, either kosher, Caribbean, or Hispanic, the Englewood store has all three specialty offerings combined in one store.

ShopRite in Englewood has been recently renovated with a variety of new and expanded departments. The newly expanded Kosher section shown Tuesday May 29, 2018.

To expand its kosher offerings, the company installed a dedicated kosher kitchen and food prep area and a separate kosher-only sushi area. They hired a Culinary Institute of America chef to oversee kosher food preparation and plan to offered expanded kosher catering.

Aisle space for kosher products has grown by about 2,500 square feet. "Nothing makes me happier than when we have that obscure item that a kosher customer had been making a second or third trip somewhere else for — something they didn’t think a traditional supermarket would have," Kent said.

The store also has a policy that all kosher meat and seafood items packaged in the store are priced the same as non-kosher meats and seafood.

As part of the remodel, the store added closed refrigerated cases in the produce department, to reduce the amount of energy needed to keep lettuce and other perishables cold.

A downtown draw

The ShopRite expansion shows the strength of the downtown Englewood market, said Curtis Nassau, managing partner of the New Jersey office of Ripco Real Estate, which has brokered deals to bring 13 new tenants to Palisades Court and adjacent buildings. "They expanded because there is consumer demand," Nassau said. "It’s a very dense market with a very strong day time population," he said.

ShopRite in Englewood has been recently renovated with a variety of new and expanded departments. Shoppers select from the newly expanded prepared foods on Tuesday May 29, 2018.

According to Ripco statistics, there are 211,114 business daytime employees within a five-mile radius of the center and more than 380,000 residents within a five-mile radius in North Jersey.

The ShopRite helps draw shoppers to Palisades Court and boosts the attractiveness of the rest of the center to tenants "because of the daily customer it brings," said Michael Rawlins, another Ripco representative.

‘You’re toast’

Glass Gardens began work on the store makeover in 2016, and the timing let it pivot to respond to growing competition. In 2017, the company had 16 competitors open near one or more of its stores. This year 19 are planning to open. Longstanding traditional competitors, just as Stop & Shop, Acme, and other ShopRite owners, have also upgraded their stores recently and added modern features to keep up with the competition. All that made this the right time for a up-to-the minute remodel, Kent said.

In the supermarket industry of today, "if you’re not putting forth the best freshest store that has all of the newest products, then you’re toast," he said.

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