EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Store manager Greg Wood taped a large yellow sign to the entrance window at JR’s Fresh Market. The sign — advertising 25 percent off — may signal discounts for shoppers, but means the final days of employment for Wood.
“I was the first one hired, and I’ll be the last to go,” he said Tuesday.
After three years in the township, JR’s Fresh Market will close its doors in early September.
“We just couldn’t keep up the fight,” owner Joe Rauh Jr., said Tuesday.
Rauh chalked up the closing of his store to a change in surrounding competition and shopper habits.
“There’s a lot of competition out there, but our regular customers are sad to see us go,” Rauh said.
“It’s a shame” said John Aleesi, 58, of Egg Harbor Township “It’s like a corner marker, a real family affair.”
Aleesi said JR’s has been his supermarket of choice since moving to the area three years ago. “Other stores, they don’t have the same atmosphere,” he said.
JR’s Fresh Market opened at the more-than 48,000-square-foot former Genuardi’s site off Tilton Road in August 2015. The building had been empty since Genuardi’s closed in December 2012.
Currently, Rauh has about 40 employees working at the market. The store’s shopping rewards points can be redeemed until Aug. 30. Rauh said they will continue to discount remaining stock until the store closes sometime between Aug. 31 and Sept. 8.
“It seems to be a sign of the times,” said Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson. “We hoped JR’s would have been able to hold their own. It’s tough to have another emptying shopping center.”
Levinson said that while business are continuing to open in Atlantic County, retail is competitive. He believes some of the grocery store’s business may have been taken with the opening of Walmart at Fire Road and the Black Horse Pike, as well as other similar convenience retailers.
“I do hope something can go in there,” Levinson said of the soon-to-be-vacant store.
Rauh leased the site from Safeway. The building, including the parking lot, is valued at more than $7.6 million, according to township tax records.
Rauh also owns a Save-A-Lot Market in Millville, Cumberland County.
“I’m disappointed to see he’s closing,” Mayor Sonny McCullough said. “I know when he opened, they were worried about the impact the super Walmart may have had. Like he said, there’s a lot of competition in EHT.”
A Walmart SuperCenter opened in July 2017 at the site of a former Atlantic Electric headquarters, just down the road from JR’s. The SuperCenter encompasses almost 190,000 square feet of a larger 250,000-square-foot shopping center, Oak Tree Plaza. Construction began in 2016.
In 2016, the Township’s Planning Board approved plans for discount grocery market Aldi to build a new location on the Black Horse Pike in the English Creek section of the township. The more than 17,000-square-foot site has been cleared with plans to open at the end of 2018.
Staff Writers Nicholas Huba and Erin Serpico contributed to this report.