big lots

Robert Jurich (left) and Caesar Mauricio of Global Facility Management from Melville, NY, prepare e a sign to be displayed in the store. Bigs Lots is scheduled to open in the next couple of month, in the former SuperFresth in Cape May Court House. Tuesday March 12, 2013, (Dale Gerhard/The Press of Atlantic City)

Dale Gerhard

MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — A former SuperFresh grocery store vacant for two years in a Cape May Court House strip mall will become a Big Lots, a rare recent example of a shuttered supermarket site serving a different business.

The Columbus, Ohio-based discount retailer plans to open in late April, spokeswoman Toni Fink said. The store will employ 60 to 70 people.

“We had a number of businesses close, and SuperFresh in particular hit that entire store complex pretty hard. … It should hopefully bring some jobs, bring some activity,”said Middle Township Mayor Dan Lockwood.

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Recently workers have been inside the site at Court House Village off Court House-South Dennis Road. A “coming soon” sign is posted on the window.

The complex includes a T.J. Maxx anchor, a few operating businesses and several vacant storefronts, including a closed pizza parlor and a bookstore.

The SuperFresh closed in spring 2011, shortly after its parent, Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Another SuperFresh in Hammonton closed at the same time, costing about 100 jobs at both locations, an official for United Food and Commercial Workers International Local 152 said at the time.

Since then, several other local supermarkets closed and their stores remain unoccupied, including a Pathmark and a Genuardi’s, both in Egg Harbor Township.

In Cape May Court House, the closed SuperFresh left a big empty spot in the complex, which is owned by Cape May Grocery Owners LLC in Parsippany, according to Middle Township property records.

The entire 13-acre property, which includes various stores and several fast-food restaurant buildings, was valued at about $6.7 million in 2012. The property had been revalued from about $13.8 million the year before.

“I’m glad they actually have someone in, because this place has been kind of quiet,” said Middle Township resident Kim Huynh, an employee at nearby Rio Nails & Spa.

Big Lots operates more than 1,400 retail locations in the U.S. It has regional locations in North Cape May, Somers Point, Bridgeton, Egg Harbor Township, Barnegat and Toms River, according to its website.

The chain opened 87 new stores and closed 42 others in 2012, a 3 percent net increase from 2011, the publicly traded company reported recently as part of its fourth quarter results.

The company was planning slower growth this year.

“We acknowledge the pool of available sites benefits from certain retailers failing or significantly downsizing. … It takes time for opportunities to develop and locations to become available and when they are, we stand ready to pounce,” Charles Haubiel, the company’s chief administrative officer, said in the quarterly earnings conference call.

Big Lots’ business model involves purchasing closeout merchandise such as discontinued products, packaging changes, liquidations, returns and disruptions in supply chains of manufacturers, the company said in documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

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