The Fresh Grocer will close its doors in March after nearly 20 years of operation. Penn students criticized the University's decision to shut down the supermarket and raised concerns about the vacancy period before the store is replaced.
Penn — the store's landlord — and the Fresh Grocer have agreed to end the supermarket’s tenancy at 40th and Walnut streets on March 31, Penn's Facilities and Real Estate Services Director of Communications Jennifer Rizzi wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian.
Many students find the store's closure "unnecessary" and criticized the University's decision to allegedly replace the Fresh Grocer with an Acme store, which they believe to be less affordable. Students also expressed concern over losing the convenience of 24/7 service and proximity during the vacancy period before the Fresh Grocer is replaced.
Penn terminated the Fresh Grocer's lease in April 2016, claiming they failed to renew it "in a timely fashion," according to a Facilities and Real Estate Services statement from December 2016. The Fresh Grocer then filed a lawsuit against the University in December 2016. Penn and Acme Markets officially announced in April 2017 that an Acme supermarket will replace the Fresh Grocer.
Carly Spross, director of marketing for the Fresh Grocer's parent company Metro City Management, declined to comment on whether an Acme location will replace the Fresh Grocer.
College sophomore Hope Cho said she believes an Acme location would be a bad fit for any college campus because of its high prices.
"What I’m looking for is general good quality, accessibility, and affordability, so I don’t get why they’re opening up an Acme," Cho said. "We already have Heirloom Market for the people who are looking for more premium options."
In 2018, Philadelphia Magazine compared four grocery stores in Philadelphia — Acme, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and Aldi — and found Acme to be the most expensive.
With its closure imminent, shelves at the Fresh Grocer are also beginning to empty while some have been completely removed. Spross did not respond to a request for comment on whether the store has stopped restocking products.
College sophomore Grant Pavol echoed Cho's thoughts, adding that the University's decision to replace the Fresh Grocer pointed to Penn's "profit-first mentality."
“It seems illustrative of Penn’s desire to make University City a homogenous blob of hyper-consumerist enterprises," Pavol said.
Both Pavol and College first-year Kristie Xia described the period during which the location will be vacant as "incredibly inconvenient" for themselves and others who live near the supermarket and depend on it for groceries.
Xia added that she and her roommates had already signed a lease at The Radian, located at 3925 Walnut Street, for their sophomore year. She said they are "very upset" about the closure and are unsure where they will buy groceries next year.
College sophomore Alyssa Gonzalez, who will also move off-campus next year, voiced similar concerns about her food situation.
"Having a kitchen [and cooking for myself] was basically my motivation for leaving the dorms, and now I feel super inconvenienced by the grocery store closing," Gonzalez said.
Cho added that she hopes the next supermarket will offer better quality and service than the Fresh Grocer.
"If I’m being honest, even though Fro Gro is convenient, a lot of the items are very random or disorganized, so hopefully Acme will be different," Cho said.