The replacement of The Fresh Grocer by Acme at 40th and Walnut streets has sparked mixed reactions from members of the University City community.
Despite an ongoing legal battle, that Fresh Grocer will be replaced with an Acme supermarket, which will include a Starbucks. The new Acme supermarket will, like Fresh Grocer, be open 24 hours a day and will feature a beer and wine shop.
For some local residents, the turnover is fairly unremarkable.
“From a personal perspective, I do feel bad that it is getting replaced due to employee job security,” April Johnson from Saunders Park, Philadelphia said. She was shopping in Fresh Grocer Tuesday. “However, from a business standpoint, [Fresh Grocer] failed to comply with their leasing terms — they did not renew their lease on time, so it’s on them that they’re getting replaced by Acme.”
The University, which is Fresh Grocer’s landlord, that the store did not renew its lease on time. But Karen Meleta, a spokesperson for ShopRite, which is the larger chain that Fresh Grocer is affiliated with, disputed this statement.
“We do believe we notified them on time, but there is some discrepancy on what that period of time should have been and therein lies the difficulty,” told The Daily Pennsylvanian in January.
Others expressed concerns about the ways in which the closure could threaten the accessibility of groceries for members of the community.
“It’s critical that we have a grocery store near us because, otherwise, many people like me who do not have the means to travel far cannot get basic groceries,” said a frequent shopper at the store Tuesday who asked to remain anonymous. “If there is even a small delay between when Fro Gro shuts down and Acme opens, that is going to be a big problem for me and other shoppers.”
West Philadelphia resident Rhoda Johnson, who was also shopping on Tuesday, also expressed worry concerning the possible lapse in service during the transition between the two stores, since the Fresh Grocer is extremely accessible from her residence.
Many students, like College freshman Gabrielle Ramirez, expressed misgivings concerning the accessibility of affordable groceries.
“There’s still a whole month of [school, when students] ... need food and we have no idea when Acme’s going to open,” Ramirez said. “There’s no guarantee that Acme’s going to be open next fall and I wish that the University would speak more to that — it would be more transparent.”
While she is not extremely upset over the loss of The Fresh Grocer, College junior Mariana Olave found the replacements to be a bit strange.
“We don’t need another Starbucks,” she said. “I was actually kind of hoping that they were going to do something like add a Trader Joe’s or something, which I though’t would’ve been amazing, but that wasn’t the case.”
The closure is worrisome for some current employees of The Fresh Grocer.
“I am upset that [Fresh Grocer] is closing down because it’s been around here for so long. This is a community grocery store, and I know a ton of residents that are really upset [that] it is going,” a current employee said. He wished to remain anonymous due to possible repercussions.
The employee also acknowledged that The Fresh Grocer has been a constant source of employment for the community for a long time.
For local resident Lynn Bird, who was in the store on Tuesday, her criticism is much simpler: “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
“I’m anxious because I love this store — I have been working in this community for more than 25 years and Fro Gro has always been there for everything,” Bird said. “It serves a diverse community, and I think Acme has a lot to live up to.”
The Fresh Grocer has continued to fight the turnover and continued operating well past March 31, the date of the expiration of its lease. The store has also continued purchasing ads in The Daily Pennsylvanian throughout April and has tweeted the hashtag, #savepennfrogro.
“I’m just happy I’m on a meal plan right now,” Ramirez said.