Commentary: The ShopRite invasion, and how Morristown could lose its identity.

Editor’s note: This article is reprinted from the Morristown High School Broadcaster, with permission. The opinions represented are the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect those of

By John Vallacchi, Morristown High School

Unless you (1) Don’t pay much attention to local affairs or (2) Haven’t looked up into the night sky and seen those bizarre spotlights, then you’ve probably heard of the new ShopRite of Greater Morristown.

With its extremely competitive prices and huge array of prepared foods and grocery items, this megastore is poised to take over the Morristown area’s grocery business and become everyone’s Number One place to shop.

Smaller, less popular stores like Acme will almost definitely face tough times ahead. The fact of the matter is that smaller, more traditional grocery stores no longer can compete with places like ShopRite, which have high output/low price business models sustained by their large sizes. ShopRite has around 250 locations across the Northeast; Acme has less than half that, with only 117.

The new ShopRite in Cedar Knolls. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The new ShopRite of Greater Morristown, in Cedar Knolls. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

In recent years, Morristown has seen a rather large influx of chain stores, including but not limited to places like Starbucks, Walmart and Qdoba.

The new ShopRite, just outside of town in Cedar Knolls, is like the many corporate businesses that now dot the streets of Morristown with their generic structures and popular logos.

As corporations like these invade, local businesses like Drip Coffee and Tito’s Burritos may find difficulty in sustaining a viable and lucrative business when cheaper, better-known alternatives are only a block away.

If this pattern continues, Morristown may soon have no local businesses to speak of. Consider a nearby town like Rockaway. Once the mall moved in with hundreds of brand-name businesses and popular chain restaurants, the local character of the town (not that there was much of one) disappeared, and it became just another rest-stop town with a huge movie theater and plenty of places to eat mediocre food.

Many would argue that mega-companies like Walmart and Starbucks pummeling small businesses into submission is simply how capitalism works, and if small businesses can’t compete then they should – by the laws of the free market – fail.

ShopRite's grand opening. Photo by Katharine Boyle for

ShopRite’s grand opening. Photo by Katharine Boyle for

They would also raise the point that these companies hire more people than the average small business and provide the local economy more stability.

In their eyes, mega-companies are “superior businesses” and should be allowed the numerous tax breaks and subsidies they receive from local and federal governments.

This argument (taken at face-value) seems like a good one. Of course, Walmart and ShopRite are good for a local economy. They provide jobs and increase consumer traffic in the area. Who would think otherwise?

Groups like OUR Walmart and even some of Walmart’s boldest employees think otherwise.

Over Thanksgiving break, nationwide protests were held to bring attention to the low wages and poor benefits that Walmart offers its average employee.

While some of the protesters’ claims were more inflammatory than they were truthful, the protests in general raise an interesting question. Should Walmart, as an employer of 1 percent of the US population (the largest employer in the US), be held accountable for the livelihood of its employees?

Today, Walmart employees are among the largest groups of recipients of government-sponsored healthcare and food stamps. Walmart employees earn an average wage of $11.75 an hour, or $20,744 a year, which falls below the $22,000 poverty line.

The story is the same for people working low-level jobs at McDonald’s or ShopRite. These businesses, while they might not hire as many people as Walmart does, are just as guilty of providing their workers with “slave wages.”

OPENING DAY: Long lines at summer opening of The Taco Truck in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The Taco Truck in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Despite the obvious worker abuses and sub-par wages that places like Walmart and ShopRite bring to Morristown, I personally think that megastores take away from the character of a town.

Whatever happened to Fairchild Market or Epstein’s? These stores made Morristown a shining example of the great American small town 20 years ago.

Morristown is now a town in flux, waiting to decide whether it wants to cave in to conformity like every other branded American town, or stand out and show that pockets of American ingenuity still exist.

This town could be something so special and so definitive of American values that we, as its citizens, cannot lose it to big businesses and popular brands.

So next time you want to get something to eat, maybe go try the Taco Truck or give Drip Coffee your money. Because, really, how great is the overpriced Frappuccino in your hands, or the poorly-folded burrito in your doggie bag?

John Vallacchi is a student at Morristown High School.



  1. Jeff Redmon says:

    What did Epsteins pay the average worker when it was open? I’m guessing about the same pay rate as what WalMart is paying now (adjusted for inflation). Also, Epsteins closed down long before Wal Mart came to town. Maybe if grocery stores like King’s didn’t charge an arm and a leg for everyday items there wouldn’t be a demand for the ShopRite’s of the world. Don’t feel bad for Acme, they’ll be just fine.
    While we’re on the topic, the town should allow ‘corporate’ CVS to redevelop the abandoned building on Speedwell that is an eyesore. I’d rather see a clean, ‘corporate’ CVS with employees, than an abandoned building with plywood for windows. This nostalgic yearning for yesteryear is what keeps the red-tape gumming up the works for projects like that.
    Change happens, after you get out of high school you’ll start to notice it.

  2. Darin Williams says:

    With all due repect to Mr. Villachi, your opinion is off base and frankly offensive. The new ShopRite has brought more than 500 jobs to our region. Many diverse backgrounds are represented by several unions at ShopRite. The jobs are competitive in their pay scale and healthcare benefits are free or very low cost to all union members. Also, perhaps some research into the ShopRite’s beginning should have been done. ShopRite started because local shop owners and markets joined forces to increase their buying power, in order to offer lower prices to the communities they serve. Furthermore, the financial reinvestment in real dollars and by the sweat equity of countless ShopRite volunteers has helped in all the communities served by this company. The ShopRite of Greater Morristown’s ownership is a committed partner and a stake holder in our community. We should all welcome and continue to support the full array of “small and local” businesses but to paint orginizations with a broad brush is narrowminded, ignorant and a bit naive. Finally, the use of the term “slave wages” is so beyond the pale of offensive. Slavery is not a dagger that should be used to make your vapid point.

  3. No local businesses?? Have you walked down South Street? What are all those restaurants that are always busy? The only complaint I have is that the sheer number of banks that have come to town have made Morristown a bit more faceless. Other than that, there’s always been corporate supermarkets in and around town and the opening of the new ShopRite isn’t a drastic change for the area. Furthermore, you compare Morristown and ShopRite to the Rockaway Mall? Terrible comparison; there’s nothing similar about the two towns whatsoever.

  4. John Vallacchi says:

    While I understand and acknowledge what many of you have to say, I stand by my opinions. Yes, ShopRite has been a loyal member of the Greater Morristown community for years and it certainly has things to show for, but to try and overlook the meager wages (which are only viable for students like myself) and hour caps it has begun to impose simply because the prices there are lower is ignoring the poverty problem in Morristown. Poverty rates in NJ are at a 52-year high and places like ShopRite and WalMart are not helping. As for the look and character of a town, we obviously have very different opinions of what makes a place desirable to live in. I’m sorry if my article offended any of you in any way, it was neither my intention nor desire to do so. The slave wages comment – as well as the article in general – was only written to emphasize the problems that many of the workers of these places face. (P.S. A job at Epstein’s was considered a career back in the day since it offered most of its employees sales commission as well as room to move up the ladder).

  5. Just a note to your comment “As corporations like these invade, local businesses like Drip Coffee and Tito’s Burritos may find difficulty in sustaining a viable and lucrative business when cheaper, better-known alternatives are only a block away.”
    What corporations are invading these local business? From everything I’ve seen the chains that have moved in are more expensive and inferior product (in my opinion). So how is that making it a challenge for the locally owned business?
    Further to call Acme a local business compared to the big bad Shop Rite is just wrong. I would like to know how much better Acme treats it’s employees vs Shop Rite.
    The comparisons and claims in this article are very far reaches, as I’m sure Shop Rite and Walmart offer opportunities for advancement to those employees that show the drive and effort.

  6. You’re right, let’s force Walmart and Shoprite to pay all their unskilled employees $25/hour. One of two things will happen- the company will lose money and the store will close or they will have to lay off employees, either way unemployment rises.

    If these people want to make more money they should learn a trade that is in in demand. Paying high school drop outs performing mindless tasks the same amount as people with college degrees in more important roles is not a recipe for success. I think Russia tried something like that, how’d that go?

  7. Margret Brady says:

    Every worker has value to the company or they would not have been hired. Walmart does not hesitate to let workers, who don’t measure up to their standards go. If the poor received half the benefits and discounts that the executives did perhaps there would not be such a high percentage of Walmart workers depending on food stamps and lacking medical benefits.

  8. Why this country is in such a rush to carbon copy all of our towns, I am not quite sure.

    But, I have to say, I agree with John.

    Where I can not speak for ShopRite, I can say that ‘No,’ Walmart is not providing a system where hard work pays off. Not when you have bins at Christmas time INSIDE of a Walmart asking for food donations FOR Walmart employees. The Waltons have more money than the lower 40% of American citizens. Your $25/hour is a far cry from the $11.25/hour average most employees are receiving, Matt. I’m not sure employees are looking to get rich stocking shelves at Walmart, just trying to be able to live. Are you aware that in 2012 Walmart had more employees on medicare than any other American company? Yet they are one of the wealthiest. And this is the type of company that this town is urging to stay? Anyone who thinks Walmart is a positive retail outlet for our town is either a Walmart shareholder or a nephew of Sam Walton.

    There are a number of businesses in town, who have had high school students working for them for years, that send care packages to these students while they are away at college and then welcome them back to their job over the summertime. That is the kind of small town feel I enjoy in Morristown. So until Luke Walton is baking a batch of brownies and sending them to one of his employees at college, have fun on Black Friday, I will stick with Small Business Saturday.

Speak Your Mind