Penn announced it would replace the Fresh Grocer with an Acme store roughly a year and a half ago. Nevertheless, the 24/7 supermarket on the corner of 40th and Walnut streets has yet to shut its doors.
The ongoing legal battle between the University and the local chain makes it unclear when, and if, the store will vacate the property.
The Fresh Grocer filed a lawsuit against the University, the landlord of the popular campus location, in late 2016, and the case has been making its way through the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas ever since. Most recently, the chain appealed the court's May 2018 decision, which ruled on May 9 in favor of Penn saying the store's lease had expired on May 31, 2017. Further legal proceedings are pending in the appellate court.
Due to the ongoing litigation, both Fresh Grocer store manager Dawn Goldstein and Maureen Gillespie, spokesperson for Wakefern Food Corporation — the cooperative which owns The Fresh Grocer — declined to comment.
The legal saga first began in 2016 when Penn contested The Fresh Grocer's right to renew its lease after the supermarket allegedly failed to renew its lease "in a timely fashion," according to a Facilities and Real Estate Services statement from December 2016.
The University had issued a "Request for Proposal" from other local supermarkets in March 2016 to take the spot of The Fresh Grocer and the December statement indicated that Penn's FRES already had chosen a new store to occupy the space.
In April 2017, the University issued a joint statement with Acme announcing that the supermarket, which operates more than 100 locations in a number of states including Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New York, would replace The Fresh Grocer.
Penn instructed The Fresh Grocer to vacate the premises by May 31, 2017.
The Fresh Grocer contested the University's claims and remained on the property, seeking to rally support among the Penn and local communities by taking out ads in The Daily Pennsylvanian and using the SavePennFroGro hashtag.
The case made its way through Philadelphia's Court of Common Pleas with an initial "projected trial date" of June 4, 2018.
Throughout the process, customers at the store have expressed a mix of reactions to the possible loss of the store, which has occupied the location on the edge of campus campus since 2001. One of the most common concerns from students and locals alike concerns the transition period from the closing of one market to the opening of another.
In July 2017, Michelle Xu, the former president of the Undergraduate Assembly and a 2018 College graduate, told the DP about a survey undertaken by the UA at the behalf of Penn's Business Service Division to collect data on students' shopping habits.
“Their idea behind it is to provide a Penn bus or some form of transit to be able to take kids to a grocery store somewhat close to the area, with the same kind of affordability as FroGro,” Xu said at the time.
Sravya Alla, the communications director for the UA and a Wharton sophomore, said she could not provide more current information on the status of the situation.
In the meantime, the University continues to tout the benefits of the installation of an Acme supermarket — which will reportedly contain a sushi bar, beer and wine section, and a Starbucks — in the location.
"ACME continues advancing plans for enhanced offerings and an upgraded design for a first class urban grocery store here at 40th and Walnut Streets," Datz wrote in an email. "[T]hey are progressing to be construction-ready when it’s time to take over the space once it becomes available, to minimize the length of closure."
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