For the first time in more than 20 years, residents from the Nicetown-Tioga area of Philadelphia will have a supermarket a short distance from their front doors.
Jeffrey Brown, president and CEO of Brown’s Family ShopRite, formally announced a plan to open the company’s 11th location near the intersection of West Hunting Park Avenue and Fox Street during a community meeting Thursday night.
The 71,000-square foot supermarket will occupy a little less than a third of a 30-acre shopping center named Baker’s Square, a nod to the site’s former tenant, the Tastykake Baking Company.
That factory was demolished to make way for the new shopping center.
Brown said the market will be an anchor for the new development and the community. In particular, he said it will provide access to fresh produce and an array of other items residents in this underserved community have had to find elsewhere for years.
The project will also bring a number of new jobs to the area. Brown said the Baker’s Square ShopRite will hire 300 employees, 250 of which will hold permanent positions.
“It’s our goal that all 250 people will come from this neighborhood,” said Brown. He added that about half of the jobs will be filled by current ShopRite employees.
The supermarket is slated to open by September 2012.
Smiles and praise for the project poured in from the elected officials and the dozens of nearby neighbors who gathered at the recently opened Salvation Army Kroc Center to talk about Brown’s plan.
City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., whose Fourth District includes Baker’s Square, said he is looking forward to having a fourth Brown’s Shoprite in his district.
“There is a family atmosphere in and around them,” said Jones, whose partnered with Brown in the past for the city’s Goods for Guns program. “They’re not just a place to buy groceries. They’re a destination.”
State Sen. Vincent Hughes said the supermarket will help serve as a reminder to others that good things can come to low-income communities.
“It’s about doggone time that everybody has the chance to have the best in their neighborhood and not just second-class service,” said Hughes.
For long-time Germantown resident and Northwest activist Irv Ackelsberg, the Brown’s ShopRite will serve as a reminder of the neighborhood’s triumph over Donald Trump.
Several years ago, the famed business mogul had his sights set on part of the Tastykake site for a $300 million-plus casino. But residents from Nicetown-Tioga, Allegheny West, East Falls and Germantown banded together under the banner of the Multi-Community Alliance to make sure that project never got off the ground.
“About six years ago, people from the surrounding communities joined together to say ‘we don’t want no casino we want a supermarket’,” said Ackelsberg. “So we owe a lot of appreciation to Brown Shop-Rite, but we also owe a little appreciation to ourselves for having hung in there and done the right thing.”
“We don’t have too many happy endings,” he added.
The ground-breaking ceremony for the ShopRite will take place on Mar. 25.
Brown said his company will continue to hold community meetings as the project progresses.