Residents and elected officials mingled amid overflowing bins of fresh produce on Wednesday as they celebrated the completion of a multi-million dollar renovation project at the ShopRite supermarket across Cheltenham Avenue from the northern edge of West Oak Lane.
The $12 million effort brings to the 16-year-old store an International Market, seafood department and, among other things, an expanded selection of fresh fruits and vegetables.
During a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Jeff Brown, president of Brown’s Super Stores, said the upgrades were driven by a desire to provide communities with healthy food options.
“Our health is so important and we’ve gone to great lengths to offer options to help people live a better life,” said Brown, whose company operates 11 ShopRite supermarkets in the Philadelphia area.
Sam Kass, senior policy advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative, said that stores like the ShopRite in Cheltenham can help slow the nation’s skyrocketing obesity rates.
“It’s about giving real choice and real power to families across this country to feed their kids in a way that supports their health,” said Kass. “This is exactly what we’re talking about.”
Evans: This makes future investment possible
For state Rep. Dwight Evans, who helped steer $5.5 million in state funding to the project, it’s about employment and laying the groundwork for future investment in the area.
“It’s all about the idea of economic growth and expansion of jobs because where you build, they will come,” said Evans, whose district includes the store.
The store currently employs about 275 people, but will make close to 50 new hires as a result of the renovation.
Evans said the ShopRite represents the final piece of a broader community revitalization puzzle that includes a newly renovated SEPTA bus terminal across the street, streetscape improvements along nearby Ogontz Avenue and the expansion of the West Oak Lane Charter School.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter lauded the project as a tangible example of public money well-spent.
“Your taxpayer dollars coming back to you. That’s what this is all about,” he said.
The updated store will also feature an Einstein FastCare health clinic, a pharmacy, and a financial services department.