ShopRite addresses concerns

Inserra president, CEO says renovation is a go

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  • Photos by Linda Smith Hancharick ShopRite will be getting a major facelift and renovation. The supermarket received approvals but is waiting nearly two years for an okay from McDonalds since the expansion will take up two more feet than is specified.




  • Larry Inserra, president and CEO of Inserra Supermarkets, addressed the board and the public Wednesday night regarding his supermarket's renovation.



The petition
West Milford Moms created a petition on Change.org, which ,as of press time, garnered more than 400 signatures.
Create a clean and healthy environment for the citizens of West Milford, NJ to shop for fresh food.
Petition by West Milford Moms
We, the undersigned, would like to make you aware of some of the health and safety issues that are occurring in the ShopRite of West Milford as we have witnessed them. We hope that bringing these concerns to your attention will provide you with an account of the state of the West Milford store and you will take the appropriate action to rectify the situation.
1.) Overall store cleanliness. We have witnessed foul odors in both the meat department and deli. Some have described them as being similar to urine and/or ammonia. The lavatory you provide for customer use is also sub-par and is often left dirty and messy.
2.) Product Freshness. Specifically in the Produce and Meat departments, it seems that the items we purchase have either already spoiled or will spoil within a day or two.
3.) Staff Friendliness. When we have addressed these concerns with the Management of the store, they seem exasperated and often deny the problem. The staff on a whole seem very unhappy and sometimes rude making it less enticing to shop in the store.
We do not feel that we are being unreasonable asking for a clean, safe place to do our food shopping that provides us with fresh and healthy food to feed our families. It has been communicated to us through our local media that there is a renovation project pending for the ShopRite of West Milford, we feel that this project will solve some of these problems, however, we have not been able to get any answers on the status of this project.
Many of us have been forced to shop elsewhere, but we love our town and want to shop at the West Milford ShopRite. Please help us do that in a store worthy of our hard earned dollars!"

West Milford will indeed get its renovated ShopRite Supermarket. That's what Larry Inserra, president and CEO of Inserra Supermarkets, told the township council and a group of concerned residents Wednesday night after an online petition, calling for a 'clean and healthy environment" in which to shop for their food, reached more than 400 signatures at press time.

Inserra went over the history of the expansion project, which began in 2009 when the company came to the township with their plans to expand toward the back of the existing store. Doing that would require them to close the store throughout the process and instead, they decided to expand to the front. They received their approvals for the expansion plan, which also includes the renovation of the entire facade of the shopping center and repaving the parking lot.

Comments from the petition and facebook
On the Moms of West Milford website:
I strongly believe that there are politics involved with the delay in the renovation. Overall my main concern is the substandard food items that are stocked in the ShopRite. Most of the perishable items are rotted within a day or two of purchase. I would hope that the renovations would help the situation as the store itself and the equipment is older and that may be part of the issue with the food quality. But, I also believe that Inserra needs to investigate their suppliers to ensure that the perishable food that is being sent to the store is higher quality.
Karen Rosner
From Change.org Web site:
One resident wrote:
The town of West Milford is just beautiful. This dated Shop Rite doesn't fit the town. It assumes we don't notice that there is just no pride in appearance. It assumes we don't want organic produce that is free of rot and mold and a better selection of organic meats. Many of us in town are passing this ShopRite and spending our money out of our town instead heading to neighboring towns with stores that are enjoyable to shop in. I do take it personally that the owners of this Shop Rite don't think West Milford residents are worth the investment.
Another wrote:
I'd love to have a better, fresher place to buy my food. Can we please get the rebuild back on track???

Some obstacles in the way
And while Inserra owns the plaza, except for the Wells Fargo property at the end of the property, the McDonalds restaurant is also a separate entity. It, too, has applied to the township for approval for a renovation. With Inserra's expansion now coming on the front of the building, the company had to get the okay from McDonalds before beginning because they would be encroaching on the McDonald's property by about two feet. Inserra said he has been waiting patiently for an answer from McDonalds and expected to get a positive result within the next couple of weeks.

He said the delay has not been because of the local franchise owner but the corporation itself.

Complaints of a dirty store and poor quality products

A Facebook group called "West Milford Moms," started a petition on Change.org a little while ago, looking for support in their quest to get a clean, safe store for the community. Those who commented on the change.org site said the condition of the store was not acceptable. More importantly, they said the quality of perishables, such as produce, meats and deli items, was not up to par. They claim food spoils quickly after it is bought and the selection of healthy foods, including organic produce, is not acceptable. Many said they are shopping elsewhere, even going out of town for their groceries.

Inserra said the petition certainly got his attention. He said he understands the frustration on the part of customers who have been waiting for a renovation for quite some time. But, he said, it isn't for lack of trying or wanting it. He said he is committed to getting the project going and completed. And while people are upset it has taken this long, the project won't begin until next year, after the winter has passed.

"We're looking forward to getting this process started," said Inserra, adding he expects the project to be finished within six months of its start.

Addressing concerns and rumors
West Milford Mayor Bettina Bieri said most in town would agree the store is outdated. Inserra said the renovated store includes an investment of $4 million inside the store for new equipment. He acknowledged the store is outdated and that some cases aren't working the way they should be. "It's just old," he said.

The delay is certainly not caused by the company's lack of funds or desire, Inserra said. The process of dealing with a huge corporation like McDonalds is what has taken so long, he said. All other approvals, he believes, are in hand.

The current store has been expanded throughout the years in a piecemeal manner, he said. Having this total renovation, adding state-of-the-art equipment and a whole new look outside will correct all of that.

Inserra also said the township has been wonderful to work with.

What's next
Inserra expects to hear from McDonalds within the next few weeks. The full project will take approximately six months, he said, but they won't begin the project until the end of next winter because of weather, he said. The approved plan allows more than 4,000 square feet additional in square footage for the supermarket.

What are your thoughts? Go to westmilfordmessenger.com and tell us if you continue to shop at West Milford's ShopRite or if you go elsewhere.

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