Starting on Monday...Last August, I took a full day to walk around Union City and West New York, NJ (and one stop in tiny Guttenberg), in Hudson County just north of Jersey City. That area is practically overflowing with corner stores, bodegas, super carnicerias, neighborhood markets, and supermarkets. Bergenline Avenue, especially in West New York, is a very pleasant*, vibrant pedestrian-based business district. We're going to take an in-depth look at 20 stores in those two cities over the course of the next month or so. There will be eleven full Store Tours and the remaining nine will be either Snapshots or Look Inside posts. Here's a look at what you can expect over the coming weeks.
*Er...it's pleasant when it's not 95 degrees out. Like it was on the day I chose to do a walking tour of these 20 stores.
Definitely click on the picture to zoom in. We'll be touring them approximately from top to bottom (not quite north to south, more like northeast to southwest). 20 stores at three a week means that it will take us about a month and a half to get through all this, or 2/26/18 through 4/11/18. So check back often!
Background on the Area
This region's super-local (and pleasantly ungentrified) neighborhoods with very few people who drive means that all these small, locally-focused stores can coexist even so close to each other. There are a few clear larger stores that are central destinations, including some that I did not visit, which tend to be more suburban style, with parking lots.
Immediately to the east of this area is the NJ coast that borders New York City, which has become a center for very upscale residential developments. Weehawken, which is just east of where the compass approximately is, has a ferry to Manhattan. The local supermarket joke is that the six inches along the coastline of West New York shop at the Acme at Port Imperial and the rest of WNY shops in Food Bazaar.
Moving north, and away from Jersey City, Bergenline Avenue emerges as a major business corridor. While the section between about 45th and 55th Streets has many large chain stores, they give way to smaller local businesses -- including literally dozens of restaurants -- above that area, with the main center of town in West New York around 60th Street. To the north, Bergenline continues through Guttenberg and North Bergen before changing to Anderson Avenue in Fairview, on which the Fairview Food Bazaar is located. To the south, Bergenline ends at Washington Park, a large municipal park, around 2nd Street in Union City. The Jersey City border is a few blocks below that.
If you've ever taken the Lincoln Tunnel into New York City, you've driven straight through this neighborhood. NJ-495, labeled on the map above, is the main highway going to the tunnel and unfortunately divided Union City when it was built. We're focusing only on the north side here. For people who don't drive, the highway is extremely difficult -- not to mention unpleasant -- to cross. However, supermarkets on both sides offer free delivery.
Union City is (percentage-wise) the most densely Hispanic city in the state of New Jersey, with just shy of 85% of the population being Hispanic. It's also the most densely-populated city (50,000+ people) in the country! West New York is a smaller town, with roughly 50,000 people to Union City's roughly 65,000. It's 78% Hispanic, but diverse enough that you can find plenty of international dining options on Bergenline. Guttenberg is comparatively tiny: the ninth-smallest municipality in the state, it's amazingly the most densely-populated municipality in the country. It's also the 19th most densely populated in the world. Guttenberg manages to pack in over 11,000 people -- and just one supermarket -- in roughly a quarter of a square mile. Guttenberg is about 65% Hispanic, and about 20% of the population lives in the Galaxy Towers, a trio of apartment buildings on the coast.
Hopefully that gives everyone who's not familiar with the area a look at what the cities are like, and it will help everyone better understand the supermarkets when we see them, starting on Monday with the only supermarket in Guttenberg, the Pinacle Supermarket!
PLUS...the last post of the series will have a special surprise, especially for anyone who's interested in supermarket history!