A ShopRite of passage

The checkout lines at the new ShopRite are named after South Philly streets.

Photos by Tina Garceau

As George McElvy headed across the Whitman Plaza parking lot Monday morning to catch the Route 57 bus, he could not help but shoot a pleased look at the personnel flocking to ShopRite. Learning the store was only three days from opening, the resident of the 300 block of Porter Street pumped his fist and immediately calculated the hours until he could walk through its doors and load up on his favorite items. His countdown has hit zero, as the Colligas Family Markets at 330 Oregon Ave., welcomed its first customers this morning, with a 9 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony marking its second venture in South Philly.

“I’ve been going to corner stores this whole year because that’s easier for me than walking that much to buy stuff, especially since I’m 86 and have terrible knees,” McElvy said. “When Pathmark closed last year, I heard that someone would have something new in a matter of time, but I didn’t put that much stock into the talk. For once in my life, I’m happy to say I was wrong.”

The relieved customer had found himself in limbo since the November shuttering of Pathmark by the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., deciding not to venture to ShopRite of Snyder Plaza, formerly, as of Sunday, 29 Snyder Ave. Though he elected not to sample the wares of the Colligas clan then, he will gladly stand tall, arthritis be damned, and go to its new store.

“Customer satisfaction is the core of our identity, so it’s going to be extremely exciting to assist that gentleman and everyone else who shops here,” Evandra Colligas said as associates went through retraining and other workers tended to making everything look shipshape. “This is a wonderful community to operate in, and we’re all eager to improve the options for residents of Pennsport and Whitman and for anyone, frankly, who frequents us.”

Relocating to Whitman Plaza marks the completion of a two-year planning process, with Jim Colligas — Evandra’s brother — serving as the mastermind. Unfortunately, he will not be there today to see the end result as he passed away in January 2015. Her sibling, having recognized the fervent demands for his entity’s contents, especially through the ShopRite from Home option, which averages 380 weekly orders, wanted to modify their combined approach, and as his kin carry on that mission in their 11th year as proprietors for the Wakefern Corp., Evandra knows her fallen relative would be exceptionally proud.

“We’ll strive to be better as we start a new identity here,” she said upon passing the international cheese section, which is sure to prove a popular addition. “It’s our family’s name affiliated with the transactions here, but it’s the happiness and satisfaction of everyone we call an employee or a guest that matters at the end of the day. That was my brother’s way of operating, too, and that’s exactly how we’ll function here with some changes to make that clearer.”

Celebrating the 60th anniversary of its founding in Newark, N.J., with headquarters in the Garden State’s Middlesex County community Keasbey, ShopRite has long enjoyed a reputation as a renowned retailer. More than 300 stores delight consumers in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, and Evandra knows that in order to grow with the times, her spot must always look for novel ways to please stomachs and avoid upsetting wallets.

“There will be plenty of options to make this an appealing place to meet your needs,” she said upon walking among the wide, welcoming aisles. “Essentially, we feel that when people come here, they’ll not only find everything they will immediately need but also stumble upon stuff for future consideration.”

She figures to be friendly with the sushi section, posits that the Chinese food selections will cater to anyone’s Asian persuasion, and expects great grab-and-go dinner offerings. An existing olive bar will team with a salad bar not too far from a 32-seat cafe that will likely be a social haven.

“Any place can sell food and not really care about the look,” Evandra said upon motioning to an expansion of artwork. “People have come to expect more from us, so there’s no way we could neglect their input from over the years.”

With new locations, even ones that make moves, employment arises as a huge topic, and the Colligas family has enlisted more than 300 associates, with the hiring of more to come, to become chums with shoppers. A registered dietician will also be on hand to offer free assistance to the masses.

In the spirit of camaraderie, ShopRite, already with a long history of altruism through its Partners In Caring initiative, which company-wide has supported Feeding America Food Banks with more than $40 million since 2000, will have some sort of event every weekend, including a Halloween celebration that Evandra is already anticipating. Come Sept. 17, the establishment, which is aesthetically appealing with checkout signs labeled after blocks in South Philly, will look to establish more bonds through its grand opening celebration, with a disc jockey, the Pennsport String Band, singers, a pianist, a face painter, Geoffrey of Toys R Us fame, and the Phillie Phanatic set to appear.

“It’s never going to grow old for us to want those pleasant exchanges with everyone,” Evandra said as associates signed in and fraternized with her. “Like our motto says, “We’re All About Food. We’re All About Savings. We’re All About You.”

Having overheard McElvy’s enthusiasm for the opening, Evelyn Kirkpatrick promised to be a mainstay at the new location just like she was at the Snyder Avenue predecessor.

“I’ve always liked ShopRite,” the resident of the 500 block of Oregon Avenue said. “They know what they’re doing, and their reputation speaks for itself. Welcome to the neighborhood!” SPR

Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at jmyers@southphillyreview.com.

The shelves were fully stocked on Monday in preparation for today’s grand opening.

Photos by Tina Garceau

The vacancy sign at Whitman Plaza is officially gone as ShopRite has moved in, relocating from Snyder Plaza.

Photos by Tina Garceau