Flanked by an Atlantic and Pacific delivery truck from 1926 and an enormous six-tiered rotating cake, Mayor Michael Nutter announced the grand opening of Northern Liberties’ new Superfresh market last week.
On Friday, Aug. 26, Nutter was joined by a number of elected officials as well as multimillionaire developer Bart Blatstein and A&P CEO Sam Martin in unveiling the new $37 million, 51,000-square-foot store — a first for the community, Nutter said.
“This is the first supermarket in this neighborhood ever,” noted Nutter.
Discussing the long development of the supermarket — the project at 2nd Street and Girard Avenue had sat vacant since a groundbreaking in February of 2010 due to concerns related to A&P bankruptcy filling last year — Nutter said that it was good to see the market open just in time for residents to get milk, eggs, bread, batteries and other needed items before Hurricane Irene hit the city on Sunday.
“Everyone’s going to be eating French toast for the next few days,” joked the mayor.
For months, residents had looked at the looming, empty building, emblazoned with the word “Pathmark,” and wondered just when the market would open.
Now open under its new moniker, CEO Martin said the name change means more than simply swapping out a sign.
During an interview as he walked the huge store’s wide aisles near the fully stocked produce section, Martin told the Star that, after talking with Nutter and re-examining the neighborhood’s dynamics, A&P felt Superfresh would be a better option for residents.
“We have a very vertical structure, and we’ve had a new management team for about a year and a half,” said Martin. “It’s all one company, but we wanted the flexibility this would provide.”
For example, Martin said as a Superfresh the store will have more flexibility to stock ethnic and specialty foods in many of the aisles than a typical Pathmark store would.
“This manifesto fits the neighborhood best. It’s a better fit,” he said. “I’m thrilled with how it turned out.”
But the store offers more than that. Already, the business provides more than 120 new jobs to the community and, as A&P’s first new store in the state in more than 10 years, the business is bringing in fresh, locally sourced foods as well.
Seafood sold at the store is brought in daily from the Philadelphia Fish Market, while beef and poultry at the grocery store is raised at one of A&P’s 140 family-owned farms located throughout Pennsylvania and neighboring states.
There is also an onsite pharmacy and a booth for fresh flowers.
Superfresh also offers home delivery.
During the day, City Councilman Darrell Clarke (D-5th dist.) who lives not far from the new Northern Liberties complex, said residents in the area haven’t had a local supermarket for some time — the nearest similar supermarket is on Aramingo Avenue — and he’s excited to have a local store for his own family.
“Unlike Sarah Palin, I can’t see Russia from my house,” he joked. “But, I can see this Superfresh from my house.”
Taking a turn at the podium, Blatstein said the Superfresh wouldn’t just be a centerpiece of his new shopping complex, but it could be an “anchor” for the entire community.
“This is the anchor now, not just of this development, but of this neighborhood,” Blatstein said.
After the pageantry of the opening had ended, hundreds of shoppers filled the store, checking out the new business and buying needed items.
A hurried George Tenning, a Northern Liberties resident, said he liked having the store close and convenient, but was surprised at the outpouring of press and the attention from elected officials the store received that day.
“I mean, there’s a lot of people here,” he said as he pushed a cart full of groceries. “It’s nice, it’s convenient, but, I mean, it’s just a grocery store.”
However, Albert Lewis, who lives along Howard Street in Kensington said the excitement was well-earned as he was finally able to get to a grocery store without needing to count on public transportation.
“This is great, really. It’s so nice to have something local for once,” Lewis said as he examined a fresh package of ground beef.
Reporter Hayden Mitman can be reached at 215-354-3124 or firstname.lastname@example.org