ShopRite of Belmar
Owner: Richard Saker / Saker Supermarkets
Previous Tenants: unknown
Cooperative: Wakefern Food Corp.
Location: 1801 NJ-35, Belmar, NJ
Photographed: December 2020
Today's store tour is really something special! At only 29,000 square feet, it has to be one of the smallest ShopRites out there, if not the smallest. This was built as a Penn Fruit (the other Penn Fruit-turned-ShopRites are Village in Essex Green, which stood on the property where the current store is; and Glass in Paramus, which was abandoned for years before being demolished). Styertowne confirms that it is indeed a former Penn Fruit, but I'll add one thing to their history: this store would've had to have become a ShopRite before the other two did in 1976. Note that this photo from The Star-Ledger shows the store, probably in the late 70s, with the ShopRite logo featuring the silhouette of a woman with a shopping cart instead of just a stylized shopping cart. That logo was only used up until 1974, with the new(er) version coming in at that time. I don't see a good reason that the Sakers would use a two-year-outdated logo on the storefront of a brand-new store, although I suppose it's possible.
What a building! There are incredibly few of these amazing arched-roof stores still in business today as supermarkets, and not that many more still standing. Unfortunately, the store has closed as a new one was constructed across the street...
It's hard to tell exactly how large the new store is going to be, but it looks to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 85,000 square feet... or nearly three times as large as this store. Zoom in behind the Exxon to see the new store under construction. That brings up the question... what is Saker going to do with this property? I'm fairly certain they own the property, so would they lease to some non-grocery tenant? Would they -- and I know this is wishful thinking, but a boy can dream -- remodel it into a second Dearborn Farms to keep their monopoly on the area and preserve the amazing building?
One thing is for certain, however: this ShopRite of Belmar was ridiculously out of date. We enter on the right side of the arch to produce, with meat and dairy on the back wall. Frozen foods take up aisles 10 and 11, with deli (the store's only service department) in the far back corner. There are 15 aisles in total, with a small pharmacy on the front wall.
You enter under this drop ceiling before moving out into the gloriously exposed arch. Notice that this store's first aisle is extremely similar to another former Penn Fruit we've seen, which is not a surprise since the stores would've been built following similar models.
Beautiful! But you can zoom in and see the manager's office and customer service up at the front there and really understand just how outdated the place is. There doesn't seem to be the updating here that The Food Emporium (or is it "the The Food Emporium?) has had.
A comparatively tiny meat department here on the back wall. But if meat looks small, let's check out the seafood department...
We can also duck a little bit into the backroom for a small alcove with outdoors items and dairy sales just around the corner from seafood...
This is also the way to the restrooms, which like in Food Universe are on the second floor.
Now heading back onto the main sales floor. It's very unfortunate that the front wall has been covered over so that the windows no longer extend to the ceiling, but the space is still gorgeous.
But if you look carefully, you can actually see the framing for the original windows. I wonder whether in fact the glass was just painted over instead of actually being replaced with a different material.
A better, more unobstructed view here in aisle 4.
Aisle 7 looking towards dairy on the back wall, and aisle 8 looking towards the front wall...
Here we see the dairy section crammed in along the back wall of the store. It really feels like a tiny store when you're inside, even though it's no smaller than the Fresh Meadows Food Universe -- probably because its layout is a little more haphazard than the Food Universe.
But holy cow, is that an impressive spectacle to look across the back wall and see the sweeping beams of the ceiling.
The ceiling gets much, much lower for the last six aisles, starting with aisles 10 and 11 with frozen.
Notice the homemade aisle markers that (1) don't match the others in the main supermarket and (2) don't actually tell you what's in each aisle!
Here's a look at the deli, which is tucked away here in the very back corner of the store.
I wonder how many first-time visitors to this store don't even know there is a deli. It's hidden behind rows of nonfoods shelving, too...
And then we're back to food (bread) in the last aisle, leading up to the pharmacy in the front corner. Makes perfect sense to me.
Health and beauty items are on the front wall next to the pharmacy as we move back into the arched-roof section.
And one final look at the beautiful arch before we call it a day.
As beautiful as I'm sure the new ShopRite will be, this store's closure is a huge loss for supermarket history. Oh well. At least it's been well-documented, by myself and others! Tomorrow we're going to wrap up our shore stores with two just over the border into Ocean County in Brick, with one here on The Market Report and one on The Independent Edition.