EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Joe Rauh Jr., the owner of JR’s Fresh Market, wears black sneakers as he walks the floor of his new supermarket.
He needs them.
He guides customers, talks to merchandisers, checks out displays and immediately knows the answer when an employee asks about the price of a mango.
“I’m going to win this thing through the people,” he said, standing at the front of the store. “The customers, the employees — this is a people business.”
The supermarket, a former Genuardi’s on Fire Road that had sat vacant since 2012, celebrated a ceremonial grand opening Friday after a soft opening earlier in August.
Rauh added inventory over those weeks, opened the pizza station and is about 95 percent stocked, he said.
Features from a salad bar to a sushi station are coming soon, he said.
But for Rauh, a supermarket veteran who invested “my last nickel” into the independent market, the business is still evolving.
He envisions a “hybrid” store that combines traditional supermarket offerings with local products and vendors such as Alma George, who grows beach plums on her Jalma Farms in Dennis Township and sells the jam.
George was offering jam samples by the front of the store Friday.
Rauh said the benefit of an independent supermarket is it has the flexibility to include local offerings like this, something large chains may struggle with.
‘Nobody’s going to do it as much as I can. Because I’m in one community, one town,” he said.
Rauh said his store has to do what larger chains do well and then improve on areas where they may be weaker.
“We’re trying to create this hybrid store. It’s probably going to take me a year to get this whole thing figured out as to what this hybrid looks like,” he said.
The store has about 150 employees.
“One of our biggest challenges is training associates. When you’re trying to drive the service element, it’s a tough thing,” he said.
Shopper David Slack, of Ocean City, said he has noticed the effort.
“The customer service has been exceptional the three times we’ve been here,” he said.
Phil Ireland, of Egg Harbor Township, stopped by to buy eggs, ice cream and other groceries.
He noted the packed parking lot Friday.
“It’s a great thing it opened up,” he said.