Former Pathmarks to Stay Vacant

Monday, 15 August 2016 14:44 Walter Elliott

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The Pathmark supermarkets here at Bergen St and at Montclair's Lackawanna Plaza remain closed since Nov. 16 - and do not look like they will be reopening anytime soon.  

The two shuttered Pathmarks are the last of the former A&P family of grocery stores yet to find a new use here in the Local Talk area. All the others subjected to A&P's bankruptcy liquidation last summer have found new owners who have reopened under new brand names.

There is some foot and vehicular traffic here at the New Community Corporation-owned "Pathmark Plaza" across from University Hospital and the Rutgers Medical School. The corner Dunkin' Donuts, NCC outreach office and a wig store does not have the volume it had from when the Pathmark anchor store was last open.

The same thing can be said at Lackawanna Plaza, off Bloomfield Avenue and Grove Street.

Of the anchoring Pathmark and 14 other stores in the former Lackawanna Railroad Montclair Branch terminal, only Roberto's Pizza, Super Suds laundry, The Pig N Whistle restaurant and two fast food franchises remain open.

Foot traffic has become light to almost non-existent. The Township of Montclair's shuttle bus to Bloomfield's Brookdale Shop-Rite, citing the opening of a closer Foodtown in Bloomfield Town Centre, ceased running in March.

The quiet here and in Montclair are far cries from when both Pathmarks opened to great fanfare in 1990 and 1985.

Some 300 Central Ward residents saw Pathmark Plaza's ribbon cut by some high-powered dignitaries July 26, 1990. NCC founder Msr. William Lindner, Mayor Sharpe James, Gov. Jim Florio, Central Ward Councilman Ronald L. Rice and Supermarkets General Vice President Jack Futterman.

"This is our Pathmark," proclaimed Lindner. "The more successful the store is, the more we can put back into the community and develop it. This store will rival any store, so we've something to be proud of."

"Some dreams are so powerful, they will not fade," said Florio. "Some dreams are so simple and obvious, they can't be denied. Today is for all those who've held on to that dream in Newark's Central Ward."

They cut the ribbon on the first major supermarket in Newark since 1967. What started as a petition drive among 12,033 residents before the Municipal Council in 1987 became a $16 million, 54,000-square foot reality.

That reality - which included the said Dunkin' Donuts and a World of Food restaurant - meant that residents did not have to travel as far away as Belleville and Kearny for groceries. It meant 343 jobs for mostly Central Ward residents and the training to go with them.

The reality was funded in part by a $1.7 million U.S. Housing and Urban Development grant and a $1.3 million local initiatives grant.

An NCC-branch and Supermarkets General, of Carteret, held respective one-third and two-thirds ownership. Prudential Insurance held the mortgage.

The Pathmark was a SuperCenter, a 24-hour supermarket that featured a large non-food inventory, bar code scanner checkouts and space for a mini-bank or small store.

Newark Bergen Street got a SuperCenter similar to ones Pathmark opened four miles east in The Ironbound's Ferry Plaza. Pathmark also opened SuperCenters in Belleville, Bloomfield, Irvington, South Orange and Montclair - adding to existing stores in Montclair and West Orange.

Pathmark Plaza was bestowed a USHUD National Excellence Award in 1996 and was cited in an international conference in Istanbul, Turkey for its job creation and poverty fighting.

Montclair's Lackawanna Plaza was similarly hailed a creative reuse of historic property.

The Pathmark, built as a new northern wing, and the terminal's waiting room were the plaza's co-anchor stores. The other 13 were created by installing walls and a roof among the station's two train platforms.

The former Montclair Terminal is on the national and state historic place registers. NJTransit moved out of the terminal in 1981 to Bay Street Station a mile east as a preliminary step to uniting the Lackawanna Montclair Branch and Erie Boonton Line. (The Montclair Connection opened Sept. 20, 2003.)

Pathmark, once an innovative grocer that broke away from Shop-Rite in 1968, was one of several chains bought by A&P, of Montvale. A&P, once the dominant national supermarket chain into 1970, needed new blood.

A&P, Pathmark, SuperFresh, Food Basics and other divisions, however, entered bankruptcy in 2011 and 2014. The A&P parent then parted out its 120 stores through auctions or lease sales.

NCC and Pathmark Plaza were able to attract new stores when World of Food closed. A sign along Bergen Street still advertises for Nathan's, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

A&P and its liquidator still lists 167 Bergen St., however, as among its 53 stores with "rejected leases." Rejected Lease means that A&P has either turned down a store suitor's lease, closed the store or walked away from the property.

An early Aug. 10 call to NCC has not been returned as of press time. One of the other rejected lease stores - 474-97 Lyons Ave. Irvington, has a SuperFresh store since July 1.

Montclair Township and HP Lackawanna 2013 LLC are to unveil their Lackawanna Plaza intentions by Dec. 31. One concept includes moving the police headquarters and the municipal building's functions there.

HP - a partnership between the Hampshire and Pinnacle companies - are meanwhile looking for another grocery company.

The Pathmark names may be carted away long before 167 Bergen and Lackawanna Plaza get new anchor tenants. A company has bought Pathmark's intellectual property, including logos and customer data bases, from A&P's liquidation.

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