By Christina Johnson |
SHREWSBURY – By 11 a.m. Wednesday on its first day of business, more than 1,000 customers were inside the brand new ShopRite at 1151 Shrewsbury Ave., moving slowly down the aisles of precisely arranged products, reading labels, checking prices and taking it all in.
Throughout the 80,000-square-foot store, smartly uniformed store employees in black aprons stood outside their immaculate stations, greeting customers or offering samples. Saker ShopRite executives in suits buzzed through the aisles, chatting with staff and shaking hands with customers. The mood was festive, like a holiday.
“It’s awesome. It’s amazing. I’m like, a little overwhelmed,” said Amy Montano of Little Silver, who was in the meat aisle, picking out Thanksgiving dinner items for her family of three with the help of a yellow store directory handout. Typically, the real estate professional will drive 20 minutes to Wegmans and Costco in Ocean Township to do the family shopping. But ShopRite is only 10 minutes from her home. She was impressed. “It’s just beautiful and everything looks great.”
Convenience, quality, freshness and the overall customer experience are some of the ingredients in Richard Saker’s recipe for success. Saker, of Middletown, is president and CEO of Saker ShopRites, which continues to be guided by the family’s fifth generation of grocers. Of his 32 stores, 25 of have the “World Class” label for their amenities, extensive size and depth of offerings. The Shrewsbury store is a World Class store.
Customers who know the Hazlet, Middletown and Aberdeen stores will feel at home in Shrewsbury. The layout of the grocery, produce, meat and seafood sections is familiar. But the Shrewsbury store stands out for its vast hot food and deli provisions selection, a smorgasbord of hundreds of prepared entrees from both the World Class Kitchens and Dearborn Farms brands that seems to go on and on from behind a long, gleaming 30-foot glass case, a feast for the eyes.
“Grab and go” foods prepared by ShopRite chefs aimed to appeal to busy working moms and dads who want to pick up a home-cooked meal to share together at night, is a sophisticated experience in Shrewsbury. “If you see a product with World Class Kitchens on it, we’re making that here in New Jersey, with good union labor. All our products are handmade and the vast majority of our products are 100 percent natural,” said Saker. “Which is something that is quite amazing, because there’s nobody else who does that. Everything is made fresh and everything is made locally.”
Customers can buy homemade food in packages right in the refrigerated aisles, or they can be served behind the glass by an employee who will help a customer build an $8 or $9 meal with an entrée and two sides from the colorful selection.
The Shrewsbury store also features a new fresh pasta operation where customers can buy packaged pasta products like angel hair, macaroni and ravioli produced on the premises. Kobe beef, a premium product not formally found in supermarkets, also gets star billing in Shrewsbury, where customers can order Kobe beef burgers, Kobe roast beef, Kobe corned beef and Kobe pastrami. These two new features will be rolling out to other ShopRite stores in the future.
All of this is offered under video screens that show mesmerizing kitchen videos from ShopRite chefs slicing and dicing, sautéing and baking, or piping icing into flower shapes onto beautiful little cakes for the boutique patisserie. “We import some of the finest ingredients from all over the world,” including chocolate from Belgium, said Saker. “We are just a cut above any bakery. Nobody does anything like we do.”
The meat section of the store is also something special in Shrewsbury. Customers can regularly find custom cuts of USDA Prime beef and Kobe beef, as well as specialties like pork crown roast and beef bracciole. Or they can request something different from the butcher behind the counter.
The store, which employs 300 full- and part-time workers, has a local focus. Customers can find Booskerdoo Coffee, roasted in Monmouth County; Glenda’s Kitchen gluten-free, gourmet cookies, which are baked nearby in Atlantic Highlands; and the Grown in Monmouth branded plants provided by local farms like Louis Davino Greenhouses.
There is also a pharmacy, a cafe, a full-service catering department and a store nutrition expert and nutrition center.
The store is open 6 a.m. to midnight every day. The company offers a “ShopRite from Home” app with pick up from reserved parking spots, and will offer home delivery.
“Customers are excited, it’s a ‘wow,’ ” said Shrewsbury ShopRite store manager Mike Egan. “They’ve been waiting a while for ShopRite to come back to Shrewsbury,” he said, referring to a store that existed in the 1970s.
“Come check us out. We have a great staff, great people, and we’re happy to serve,” added Egan.
This article was first published in the Nov. 15-21, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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