Northeast Times

It’s a Giant step for more jobs

Su­per­mar­ket chain’s North­east store is its first in Phil­adelphia. The ad­di­tion of 275 jobs also had May­or Nut­ter in an up­beat mood.

Em­ploy­ees fix some aisles at Gi­ant’s new store on Grant Ave. on Tues­day, Ju­ly 19. Kev­in Cook/for the Times

A new su­per­mar­ket opened in the North­east last week. It was kind of a big deal, but that wasn’t just be­cause the may­or and a bunch of oth­er suits showed up to mark that open­ing the day be­fore, or even be­cause the Phil­lie Phanat­ic ran around the place as shop­pers got their first looks.

The Gi­ant at 2550 Grant Ave. is as May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter de­scribed it: big and bright. The mar­ket, which opened its doors at 8 in the morn­ing on Wed­nes­day, Ju­ly 20, is also the gro­cery chain’s first Phil­adelphia store, but it’s hardly the North­east’s only mar­ket. There are sev­er­al already in busi­ness not far away.

The big deal is that Gi­ant’s Phil­adelphia premiere adds 275 full- and part-time jobs to the city’s sag­ging eco­nomy.

“If we need any­thing more than fresh foods, we need jobs,” Nut­ter said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence on Ju­ly 19, the day be­fore the open­ing. “Wel­come to Philly.”

The new store is 74,000 square feet, and Gi­ant it­self is big. The com­pany is the third-largest private em­ploy­er in Pennsylvania, said spokes­man Chris Brand. It has 185 stores and 31,000 em­ploy­ees.

Gi­ant began op­er­a­tions in Carl­isle, Pa., where it still is based, in 1923. It has been op­er­at­ing in the sub­urbs for a couple dec­ades and has stores in up­state Pennsylvania, Mary­land, Vir­gin­ia and West Vir­gin­ia.

Gi­ant’s par­ent com­pany is big, too. The gro­cery chain is owned by Neth­er­lands-based Ahold, which op­er­ates al­most 3,000 stores with more than 200,000 em­ploy­ees in Amer­ica and Europe. In the United States, Ahold also owns Mar­tin’s and Stop & Shop food mar­kets.

“Pro­jects like this just don’t hap­pen,” Nut­ter said dur­ing  the con­fab, not­ing that City Coun­cil­wo­man Joan Kra­jew­ski (D-6th dist.) was in­stru­ment­al in mak­ing sure the mar­ket was built.

Brand said the pro­ject was in de­vel­op­ment for more than two years. The Grant Av­en­ue Gi­ant has a mod­ern and spa­cious d&ea­cute;cor, a wi-fi caf&ea­cute;, phar­macy and gas pumps.

The com­pany puts a lot of em­phas­is on its pro­duce qual­ity and se­lec­tion. For ex­ample, Brand said, the store sells about 40 kinds of mush­rooms. Gi­ant buys pro­duce from Pennsylvania farms, he said, and the pro­duce sec­tion has a list of those farms and their loc­a­tions.

Nut­ter said the store open­ing will be­ne­fit Green­works Phil­adelphia, a broad ini­ti­at­ive that out­lines the city’s fu­ture “green” strategies.

 ldquo;A key goal of the city’s Green­works Phil­adelphia plan is to bring loc­al food with­in a ten-minute walk to sev­enty-five per­cent of our res­id­ents by 2015,” Nut­ter said.

The North­east store also of­fers a vari­ety of kosh­er products. How large that vari­ety is seemed to sur­prise some cus­tom­ers, said John Pon­nett, Gi­ant’s dir­ect­or of fresh.

The Gi­ant’s kosh­er bakery and deli are op­er­ated un­der rab­bin­ic­al su­per­vi­sion, Pon­nett said, so “cus­tom­ers can have great­er con­fid­ence” in the kosh­er products they buy.

The com­pany did a lot of mar­ket re­search — ran fo­cus groups, con­duc­ted sur­veys and reached out to neigh­bors as the pro­ject was de­vel­op­ing, Brand said.

On Ju­ly 19, the com­pany’s pres­id­ent, Rick Her­ring, said Gi­ant lives and gives in its com­munity.

“We reg­u­larly as­sist loc­al non-profits,” he said.

The com­pany handed out $10,000 of that as­sist­ance last week. Be­ne­fi­ciar­ies in­cluded the Phil­adelphia fire and po­lice de­part­ments, the food bank Phil­abund­ance, the city school dis­trict, the Ger­sh­man Y, Chil­dren’s Hos­pit­al, Liberty USO, NAACP, St. Joseph’s Uni­versity, the United Way of Great­er Phil­adelphia and even the 8th Po­lice Dis­trict Ad­vis­ory Coun­cil.

PDAC mem­ber Elsie Stevens said her or­gan­iz­a­tion got $1,000 from the gro­cer. The PDAC hadn’t asked Gi­ant for any­thing, she ad­ded.

“They sought us out,” Stevens said, not­ing that the money will be used for events sponsored by the or­gan­iz­a­tion, in­clud­ing next week’s Na­tion­al Night Out anti-crime pro­gram.

The gro­cer also donated 50 park benches to Keep Phil­adelphia Beau­ti­ful for place­ment throughout the city. The benches are made from re­cycled plastic shop­ping bags that cus­tom­ers re­turn to Gi­ant stores.

Brand said lines of people waited to enter the store when it opened last Wed­nes­day. “It’s a pretty big open­ing,” he said while sur­vey­ing the scene. The Phil­lie Phanat­ic ad­ded his fam­ous brand of zani­ness to the flash of cam­er­as and cheers from cus­tom­ers.

Those first-day shop­pers had to walk by two groups of demon­strat­ors as they entered and left the store. About 20 mem­bers of the United Food and Com­mer­cial Work­ers uni­on quietly paced back and forth out­side, pro­mot­ing uni­on­iz­a­tion for store em­ploy­ees.

The oth­er pro­test­ers were four men who pub­li­cized the Co­ali­tion of Im­mokalee Work­ers, a com­munity-based or­gan­iz­a­tion of work­ers in low-wage jobs throughout Flor­ida. The pro­test­ers wanted Gi­ant to sign on to an agree­ment that would in­crease the pay of CIW to­mato pick­ers and im­prove their work­ing con­di­tions.

Brand said he would not com­ment spe­cific­ally on the demon­stra­tions, but handed out a pre­pared state­ment in which the com­pany said it re­cog­nized the right of or­gan­ized labor to con­duct the demon­stra­tions.

 ldquo;Gi­ant is a loc­ally op­er­ated gro­cery chain com­mit­ted to provid­ing the best work­ing en­vir­on­ment for our as­so­ci­ates,” the state­ment said. “This col­lab­or­at­ive work en­vir­on­ment res­ults in be­ing able to provide our cus­tom­ers with the low­est pos­sible prices at a time when fam­il­ies are strug­gling to make ends meet in a dif­fi­cult eco­nomy.” ••

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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