A year ago the owners of the Safeway Supermarket in the Governor Square Shopping Center in Bear announced they were leaving.
Ernie DellaDonne of DellaDonne and Associates was shocked. “They (Safeway) informed us at the last possible minute and then said don’t tell anyone because they hadn’t told their employees they were being let go,” DellaDonne said.
December 2011 couldn’t be more different for DellaDonne. The Kenny Family, owners of 4 other New Castle County ShopRite’s has not only filled the void, but they added 10,000 square feet to show they were serious about competing in the area along Route 40.
“Route 40 is the new 202,” said Chris Kenny, Vice-President for ShopRite operations in New Castle County. He was bullish about his new store as it got set to open to the public on Saturday morning. He was referring to Concord Pike a booming retail area in the county.
“We’ve got a 1,000 linear foot meat counter. The biggest around,” Kenny said. “We expanded the store to 63,000 square feet.” He said this store like the others would be operated on the owner operated model that other ShopRite’s use.
Union protest forces last minute celebration changes
To prove the family-operated point his father, Bernard was on hand to thank those who were instrumental in getting the store completed in less than six months. He wanted to thank New Castle County Executive Paul Clark and Lt. Governor Matt Denn were among those who were supposed to attend a Friday VIP kick-off, but they dropped out at the last minute. The elder Kenny said the reason was because of a protest outside by the Delaware Building Trades Union.
About 100 members of the Delaware Building Trades Union gathered on the sidewalk to side of the store for a short protest. Their complaint was the hiring of Lynmar Builders of Westville, NJ to do the renovation. Mike Hackerdon, President of the Pipe Fitters Union, said his message was real simple. “Delaware construction jobs should go to Delaware workers.” He said other Delaware ShopRites were built with his Building Trade workers. “I’ve shopped at ShopRite in the past, but I won’t now,” he said. He plans to go to the Acme in Middletown.
Chris Kenny said the union was complaining that non-union workers were hired. He said some of the subcontractors hired by Lynmar were from Delaware. Hackerdorn said, “we live here. We spend money here. We pay taxes here. We should get the work.” Hackerdorn insisted the issue was an out of state company working on a project he said could have been done by his group.
The Kenny family was quick to point out that Lynmar donated $100,000 of their profits to the Kenny Foundation. That group donates money to Delaware charitable organizations. Bernard Kenny says they routinely ask construction groups to make a donation to the foundation and were surprised by such a large amount. “And for this we get pickets,” said the elder Kenny.
But the protest and the lack of state and county officials didn’t take away from the celebration for the store. Food tasting tables were set up for guests and workers put the finishing touches on the store. Shelves were still be stocked. Glass doors were being polished in the frozen food section.
Bullish on Bear
Both DellaDonne and Chris Kenny were talking like they had hit the jackpot with the opening of the store. “We had talked to 5 or 6 other Supermarket chains, but we knew about the Kenny Family from our association with them at our 202 site,” said DellaDonne. He said, “I bet a lot of money in the 80’s that this would become a shopping mecca and it seems to be paying off.” He hopes the development of Governor’s Square III will improve those odds. New construction on that center should start in mid-2013 after road widening projects at Route 7 and 40 are completed.
Kenny saw the potential of the new shopping center and the growth of the area around Route 40 as a reason for wanting to come to Bear. “There are more families, more businesses coming to this area,” he said.
He took a shot at the Safeway decision to leave Governor’s Square and direct traffic to their other store 5 miles further west along Route 40 at People’s Plaza Shopping Center last December. “Safeway has no business model. That’s why they are having troubles with the Genuardi’s chain in Pennsylvania.” He says bringing in local meats like DiBruno brothers from Philadelphia will add to what he describes as the quality put into his stores.
The renovations didn’t come cheap. DellaDonne says it cost about $14 million. “That’s just a renovation,” he said. “New construction costs almost that much.”
Kenny said there will be 250 people hired for the new Bear store. “They are all members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union,” he said, making one last point to counter the protesters.