Story and photos by Jay Cook
MIDDLETOWN – Livoti’s Old World Market has set its eyes on a 13,940-square foot space at The Marketplace at Middletown at New Monmouth Road, which is currently undergoing a significant renovation and adding new tenants including TJ Maxx and Bed, Bath & Beyond.
It would be the third location for the rapidly growing Italian-themed grocery store, which started in the Strathmore Shopping Center on Route 34 in Aberdeen in 2010, and expanded to Marlboro Plaza on Route 9 in 2014.
“We’re a gourmet Italian supermarket where you can get the Italian specialties you can’t find anywhere else for a reasonable price, with an absolute incredible quality,” John Livoti Jr. said.
With only six years in the supermarket business, the folks at Livoti’s believe they have found their niche in the industry, especially in Monmouth County.
“A customer will be able to go into a Livoti’s and not only buy great perishables, but if they’re in a pinch, they don’t have to leave for a major box store,” said owner John Livoti Sr.
Known for their homemade and premade meals, along with their extensive cheese and deli departments, the Italian-inspired market with shelves full of freshly baked breads is looking to grow on their already existing store sections which include seafood, cheeses, meats, bakery, dairy, as well as groceries and catering services.
Items like freshly made flatbread pizzas go for $1.99 each and an extensive array of nuts cost $3.99 to $5.99 per pound. Fresh ground beef chop meat is priced at $4.49 a pound. Their signature store-made sausages, which come in as many as five different styles, cost $3.99 per pound.
A favorite at Livoti’s for their existing customers has been the mozzarella man, who makes fresh cheese on site each day. Produce and meat get delivered five days a week from Hunts Point Market in the Bronx.
A contract for the new location in Middletown, which would be the largest Livoti’s Old World Market, is in the process of being finalized.
Management is already thinking about how to stock the store, if all goes as planned.
“We’re definitely getting more into the organics and the grass-fed (meat), especially with the way that the market is going,” said Mike Montemarano, who will be the Middletown store manager. “That’s definitely what people are looking towards.”
Livoti’s would join ShopRite, Stop & Shop, Whole Foods and Best Market along the Route 35 corridor. Livoti Sr. said the new location would help the market reach customers in the Two River area.
“We felt that we wanted to cultivate that market, the southernly-type down by Red Bank, Lincroft, Shrewsbury and Rumson,” he said. “Those are the areas we aren’t reaching to as of yet.”
Once the deal is complete, Livoti’s Old World Market would occupy the third-largest space in The Marketplace at Middletown, formerly known as the Middletown Shopping Center and anchored by Pathmark which closed in 2011.
Led by builders Willner Realty & Development Co., the center, still under development, has taken on a modern facade along with bringing in new stores to support the development.
Retail giant T.J. Maxx opened its doors at The Marketplace on Nov. 13. The largest of the stores will be Bed Bath & Beyond, which is moving from its current location at Route 35 and Harmony Road. That store will be just under 34,000-square feet.
Already, the complex boasts an Applebee’s and an AutoZone, both on the northern end of the lot.
Middletown Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger, an advocate for redeveloping pre-existing commercial land, believes the commercial redevelopment on Route 35 bodes well for the township.
“This complete makeover is really going to be a game-changer for the town,” he said. “It sets a tone for the other shopping centers that nobody wants to be the center that’s tired looking and dingy.”
In his mayoral speech at the township’s Jan. 1 reorganization meeting, Scharfenberger proudly announced Livoti’s had chosen Middletown for its third store.
“I think it will draw people from surrounding towns. Those who have to go to the other locations can now come to Middletown,” Scharfenberger said. “You always want people coming in and spending money in town if you can.”
Once the lease is signed, it could be anywhere from six to eight months until the market opens, according to Livoti Sr.
The Middletown Livoti’s location plans to employ between 50 and 70 workers.
“Now that we have our name out there, people know what we stand for and what our qualities are,” said Livoti Jr., the Matawan location store manager. “It’s definitely a big advantage for us.”
This story originally appeared in the Jan. 19-26, 2017 edition of The Two River Times newspaper.
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