You won’t be needing your A&P bonus card much longer in Morristown.
As of Oct. 31, 2013, the grocery store on Washington Street will stop honoring all A&P coupons and chain discounts, as it prepares to close on Dec. 6 after 44 years in town.
A Whole Foods Market plans to open at the site in late 2014, after renovations are made.
A&P Co-Manager David Devers said his store’s 48 employees will be transferred to other A&P venues. The closest stores are in Randolph, Denville and Boonton.
“I’m confident they’ll do the right thing for us. We’ll be transferred with the same pay and seniority,” said Terry Chernes, manager of the liquor department.
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The A&P decided to call it quits because its lease is up and a rent hike is too steep, according to Co-Manager Thomas Clanton.
“The profit wouldn’t be there with the increase they wanted,” he said on Tuesday.
‘LIKE A FAMILY’
It will be hard pulling up stakes, Terry said. Twenty of his 37 years with the company have been spent in Morristown–a stint surpassed only by Chuck Parillo.
“The employees are like a family. The customers are like a family. It’s unusual to be in a store for so many years,” Terry said.
“This is an extension of my family,” said shopper Kathleen O’Neill Margiotta, who is Morristown’s Clean Communities program coordinator.
“I will miss the convenience, and the friendly checkers. If you’re moving, they’ll save boxes for you. They will save stuff for you if they don’t have it. It’s really good for people who don’t have cars in this neighborhood.”
Kathleen acknowledged that the store itself could use an overhaul. She expressed hope that Whole Foods won’t forget about meeting the needs of local residents.
Other longtime customers expressed similar sentiments.
“It’s sad,” said Barbara Preziosi, an arts teacher who has shopped at the Morristown A&P for four decades. “Whole Foods is very pricey. The average person can’t afford it.”
Geri Greene called the local A&P’s impending demise “pitiful.”
“It’s a very convenient location, and it has good general supplies. It’s nice to be able to buy alcohol in a supermarket. And they’re so friendly,” the customer said.
Another shopper, a Morris Township resident who only gave her name as Anne, said she likes the A&P staff but looks forward to Whole Foods’ arrival.
“I think it’s great that Whole Foods is coming in,” she said. “I like organic food and vegetarian things. They’re more in line with the way I shop.”
Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty predicted Whole Foods will give the neighborhood a boost.
“They’re very active in communities. It’s a plus for everybody,” said the Mayor, adding that the town will make sure any increased vehicular traffic is controlled smoothly, as is the case near the busy Kings Super Market on South Street.
NEW LIQUOR STORE?
Although A&P coupons and discount cards won’t be honored any longer, in-store discounts will be offered in the final weeks to clear the shelves, Tom Clanton said.
“It’s a balancing act,” he said. “We’ll have enough merchandise to keep the business going.”
The Washington Street store opened in 1969, Tom said, and was renovated in 1999.
Whole Foods won’t be the only new option for A&P customers. ShopRite is poised to open on Nov. 6 on Hanover Avenue in Hanover, with amenities that include childcare service and a café with free WiFi, in addition to a pharmacy, catering, home delivery and liquor sales.
The A&P’s liquor aisle has been a big moneymaker. It’s possible the company may seek another location in town to open a liquor store, said Terry, the liquor department manager.
What about Whole Foods buying the A&P liquor license?
“We’d love to,” said Whole Foods spokesman Michael Sinatra, “but the state of New Jersey only allows each company two liquor licenses.” Whole Foods already has liquor sales in Paramus and Middletown, he explained.
Whoever acquires the A&P distribution license will face plenty of competition.
Fourteen such licenses allow liquor sales in Morristown, according to Town Clerk Matt Stechauner. Another 23 alcohol consumption licenses permit establishments to serve liquor.
That number does not include special licenses for the Hyatt Morristown and the Mayo Performing Arts Center, or the state concessionaire’s permit for the Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen, scheduled to open next April in the Vail Mansion.