Germantown residents filled the Flying Horse Center’s Pegasus Room on Wednesday night to discuss ongoing issues and potential renovations for the Pathmark shopping center, a neighborhood fixture located at Chelten and Wayne avenues.
Jeff Kelly has been the Pathmark location’s manager for less than a year. Sparking a conversation with the community, he said façade improvements are already in the works with a fresh coat of paint and new signage on the way.
“I want to go to a store that’s beautiful every day, just like you want to shop in one,” said Kelly.
As interim chair of Germantown Special Services District (GSSD), Joe Martin urged attendees to speak up.
“It starts here. It starts in this room,” he said. “This is how change happens.”
Roughly a quarter of those in the room indicated that they used to shop at Pathmark but haven’t returned for quite some time.
Diana Pieri has lived in Germantown for nearly four decades. Though a new façade would be an improvement, she said the litter-strewn lot hurts both the store and neighborhood’s physical appearance.
Martin said he hopes that the GSSD will be able to address this issue when the group gets City Council approval to get up and running. (It passed first reading at Thursday’s meeting and will be up for approval on Oct. 10.)
As practical matters, Kelly noted that the store is working to replace the current security and looking into partnering with police to keep the entrance clear of panhandlers.
“It’s not like we don’t see it,” Kelly said. “It’s an ongoing battle.”
Remodeling wish list
Kelly said he hopes to get a “clean and bright” remodel of the store.
This would include new lighting, produce cases, flooring and, among other improvements, bathrooms. However considering funding issues with the A&P Corp., which owns the Pathmark chain, Kelly does not believe this will be possible until the next fiscal year.
Kelly also addressed hiring more local employees, repaving the parking lot and replacing the brick wall around the building’s perimeter.
“I know, as well as you do, that they’ve neglected the store for too long,” said Kelly.
Feedback from attendees
Audience members raised concerns about the gate blocks at the front of the store prohibiting shoppers from taking their carts to their cars in the parking lot. Intended to counteract shopping-cart theft, they said this inconvenience brought unintended consequences.
Kelly said he is trying to get funding to install Carttronics, a techonology which would lock the carts’ wheels at the parking-lot border.
Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass said the impending GSSD arrival will help with many of the exterior-aesthetic worries.
“I hope to hear, after the level of investment we’re all making in this area, a little more support for this community, and not for what the area and building looks like right now, but what it’s going to look like next year and the following years beyond that,” said Bass. “We’re really thinking long-term.”
Susan Guggenheim said she hopes fellow residents support the store which sought their opinions.
“I’m asking the room: How committed are we to this Pathmark?” asked Guggenheim. “If we don’t commit to this Pathmark, then nothing they [Kelly and Bass] do will matter.”
However, to Irv Ackelsberg, who has been doing the majority of his grocery shopping at the new Bakers Center ShopRite, the store must prove itself to the community.
“Before we could commit to the store, we have to know that the company will commit to us,” he said.
A petition drafted to addresses the concerns raised at Wednesday night’s meeting will be forwarded to the location’s parent company.
“This is how it starts,” said Martin. “It has everything to do with you.”
Amanda Staller is a La Salle University student who writes for GermantownBeat, a local student-produced news site. NewsWorks features articles from GermantownBeat on its Northwest Philadelphia community sites and contributes multimedia journalism training to the program.