Tuesday, July 17, 2018

TOUR: SuperFresh - Plainsboro, NJ

The A&P-owned SuperFresh of Plainsboro, NJ closed in 2013, leaving the town of 23,000 residents with one grocery store, an Asian Food Markets location. The issue was hot enough that a Facebook page was even started to emphasize that "Plainsboro Needs a Supermarket". So when it was announced that a Key Food-operated gourmet-focused Food Emporium would open in 42,000 square feet of the former SuperFresh, residents were thrilled.

Except they got this instead.
That's right, it's a new SuperFresh (opened 02/23/18)! A Key Food-operated SuperFresh owned by our old friend Kevin Kim -- whose SuperFresh locations in Garwood and Edison were, um, explosive. In that they lasted a short time and then disappeared. To be fair, Kim owns successful supermarkets in New York City, although it's become clear at this point that he not only specializes in running stores in lower-income urban areas with large Hispanic and Caribbean populations, but that that's the only type of store he can run. As a matter of fact, this store is actually co-owned by Food World executive John Ahn, who runs the SuperFresh in Roselle.
And if you were wondering what stores Kim has closed, just take a look at the carts here. A&P carts from Edison, Pathmark and Pathmark-turned-Food Emporium carts from Garwood, and old SuperFresh carts from this very location. Plus a bunch of random carts from Haggen, a west-coast small chain, as well as a few Walmart hand-me-downs. This is how you open a new supermarket (that's the Estevez/Tirado Foodtown of Valley Cottage, NY).
Plainsboro has a significant Asian population, which Kim is trying to cater to here, although he's also trying to bring in standard American groceries to satisfy the highly-publicized demands of the market that's not being served by Asian Food Markets. A different operator might be able to do that well, but this store is stuck in the middle in that it's set up like an ethnic market, but is really a standard supermarket. More frequently, the reverse works better, a standard supermarket that happens to sell a large selection of ethnic goods. Like Food Bazaar.

The store is very deep, although it's narrow. There are actually three sets of aisles from front to back. Produce and seafood line the first aisle, with meat and dairy along the back wall, frozen at the far side of the store, and deli and an already-closed food court on the far side of the front end.

I came to this store to buy two items: milk and orange juice. Simple enough, right? Well, we'll see.
Great first impression, but it goes downhill from here. I'm not sure what the flooring is here (in pictures, it looks like polished concrete, but it's not). The one thing Kevin Kim does well in all his stores is the produce department.
This area is immediately next to the entrance, and I can't quite tell what it would have been when the store opened, although I would guess bakery. Baked goods are now over by the deli, taking up space in the former food court.
Floral and customer service along the front-end, with the entrance to the left here.
Here's a look along the front-end.
The store looks much better in pictures than it does in person. In person, the wood and beige walls don't look so much rustic and stylish as they do unfinished, especially when combined with the old produce cases.
Seafood department, which has already been downsized, in the back of the produce department. Notice that the floor covering -- whatever it is -- is coming up as well.
Looking back up towards the front of the store.
Mostly-empty butcher counter in the back of the first aisle. Once again, the haphazard decor makes the store look unfinished. Plus, I'm not sure what the appeal of a "meat factory" is. Shouldn't meat be naturally produced, in the ideal, not factory-made? A Pioneer Supermarket in Philadelphia has also adopted the name Pioneer Meat Factory. I don't get it.
Here's a look along the back of the store, with meat and milk in the additional aisle to the right. Ah, so I can check one item off my list -- milk!
Or can I?
Nice milk selection. According to cashier Kevin, the case broke, so they're keeping milk in the backroom. (Note that this story did not end with the phrase "for now" or "until the case is fixed".) To his credit, Kevin went into the backroom and actually brought out a few different choices of milk and even went back to get a second one. Thanks!
The mismatched cases and other fixtures around the store don't help the store's appearance, and make it look even more unfinished.
A look across one of the center aisles of the store.
The rest of the dairy selection was fully stocked, however.
 Freezer cases line the other side of this case. And why was the store allowed to open with "UL 411 2 HR" stenciled on the walls in multiple places? I also got a good chuckle out of the milk sign here.
Plenty of leaking cases, unfortunately. They're probably left over from the old SuperFresh.
Frozen foods takes up the last two aisles (it's actually a very large selection), while deli is in the front.
For whatever reason, the food court barely lasted a few months. Speculation online points to failure to correctly get permits to build and operate it or failed health inspections, but a lack of interest seems just as likely.
The food court seating area is on the other side of these cases, and has been closed. Additional chairs and tables have been moved onto this side of the case, probably to fill floor space. I'm not sure what used to be here on the wall.
If this section were fully up and running, it would be very impressive. The "coming soon" sign on the right is probably, unfortunately, not true. You can see the closed food court to the left. If only the store still looked like this!
And one last quick look across the front-end before we head out. My complaint with this store is not the fact that it's an Asian-leaning supermarket -- in fact, I'd rather see it commit to being an Asian market rather than this weird hybrid -- but that it's just so badly run. I hate to see supermarkets fail but in this condition, this store just doesn't have a chance.

Update: This week's circular looks ... different.
Here's the standard SuperFresh circular.

SuperFresh

11 Schalks Crossing Rd
Open Daily 7AM-9PM
www.superfreshplainsboro.com
(609) 212-2118
My Rating: ★☆☆☆

4 comments:

  1. The labelscar at the food court looks like it was lettering that once read "Food Court". Makes sense to remove the sign... except the one right next to it saying "Food and Food Court" remains up. I guess that's on par with the rest of the store, though...

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    1. OK, that would make sense. Of course, there's Food & Food Court (not even sure what that means), plus the huge Food Court sign over the former seating area.

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  2. Darn! How'd you beat me to this store? I unfortunately have older pictures which will be released at the end of August. Interesting that the Food Court already closed... it seemed pretty busy before!

    Unfortunately this store is a bust... Plainsboroians (Yes, I'll call it that) wanted an American supermarket, not another Asian Food Market! Everyone agrees... even those who shop at the Asian Food Market.

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    1. Yeah, this was a misguided store that was also badly executed. It's a shame because it's a great location and a potentially really nice facility. Maybe a different operator will be able to figure out what works here.

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