Fresh Grocer closing on Chelten; Save-A-Lot opening amid many concerns

Sometime in the next couple weeks, Fresh Grocer on Chelten Avenue and Pulaski Ave. will shut its doors.

The store’s spokesperson, Carly Spross, declined to say what would become of the site, except that there are “exciting things” in the works. She said that Fresh Grocer would make a formal announcement about those plans in mid-March, and until then, could not comment any further. She also could not give a specific closure date.

But Michael Quintero-Moore, director of communications for Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller, said that Fresh Grocer is closing in order to rebuild a Save-A-Lot at that site, which will be owned by Fresh Grocer. He also said the Save-A-Lot will move from its current location on Wayne Avenue, and that no zoning variance was needed for the change.

“[Councilwoman Miller] isn’t really happy about that because the existing Save-A-Lot will now be just another big, empty building. How many jobs is that going to create?” he says, adding, “Save-A-Lot is really low-end.”

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Meanwhile, Verna Tyner, a candidate for City Councilperson in the 8th District, began researching the Fresh Grocer’s closure last week after community members came to her, angry that they weren’t given more notice of the development. She says that according to the city’s Department of Licenses & Inspection and Department of Records, Fresh Grocer will be demolishing the building.

She also says that Fresh Grocer received approval to consolidate three parcels — at 301 W. Chelten Avenue, 5834 Pulaski Avenue and 506 W. Rittenhouse Street — to create two commercial spaces. She says that following the demolition, the company will create a free-standing building with a canopy to use as a supermarket and parking lot.

A call to Licenses & Inspection was not immediately returned.

Some neighbors aren’t happy that they’re just learning about the closure of the grocery store. They are also displeased that Fresh Grocer will remain the owner.

“No one in the community is being communicated with,” said Paula Paul, a member of the civic group Germantown Community Connection. “We really wanted to have the Fresh Grocer there be as good as the one in West Philly, but we never got it. They never put together a good management team, they never took care of the property.”

Community-oriented Germantowners have been furiously sending emails and placing calls about the development throughout the past week. Many have expressed concern that Fresh Grocer will be putting up a Save-A-Lot in its place. Others blame the Fresh Grocer on Chew Avenue, which opened in 2009 with $4 million in state subsidies and the promise of many jobs, for the Chelten Avenue location’s decline.

“A Save-A-Lot would be going down a notch,” says Paul. “We keep getting treated like we’re only a poor community, but we’re not.”

“The problem is that the community wasn’t informed at all,” Tyner adds. “From what I’m hearing, it sounds like it will be a good thing for the neighborhood, but information needs to be disseminated beforehand.”

But Spross countered that, “When we make an announcement, it’ll be toward the community. There hasn’t been communication yet because nothing has been finalized.”

When the store closes, Spross said Fresh Grocer will offer complimentary shuttles to its nearest location, on Chew Avenue in East Germantown. They won’t require a minimum purchase, and will run until further notice.

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