Wakefern Expanding ShopRite Banner In Maryland

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Since Wakefern Food Corp. entered the Maryland market about a year ago with the conversion of seven Klein’s Family Markets to its ShopRite banner, it was expected that the country’s largest wholesale grocery co-op would aggressively look to expand its retailer base throughout the Baltimore-Washington market.

It seems like the next wave of expansion is close at hand. Last month, the Keasby, NJ parent whose members operate ShopRite stores, announced that it would open its first Anne Arundel County store this fall and employ approximately 200 associates. The member retailer will be Collins Family Markets, under the helm of CEO Larry Collins, who operates three ShopRites in the Philadelphia area (Oxford Ave. and Olney Ave. in Philadelphia and another store in nearby Eddystone, PA).

Collins will assume 85,000 square feet of the space once occupied by Kmart in the Chesapeake Square Shopping Center on the 6700 block of Ritchie Highway in Glen Burnie. Mars Super Markets served as the shopping center’s supermarket tenant until it closed in the fall of 2008. The Kmart store closed last December.

Another Mars store off of Ordnance Rd. in Glen Burnie was also shuttered in late 2008. That site originally housed the giant Leedmark hypermarket and will become a Wal-Mart SuperCenter in the next 18 month, stiffening the competition in the area. Wal-Mart also operates one of its best SuperCenters in the region 4.6 miles away off of Quarterfield Rd. in Severn.

Also, it appears that one of Wakefern’s biggest and most successful members, Jeff Brown (Brown’s SuperStores), is interested in building a new ShopRite in the Howard Park section of Baltimore on Liberty Heights Ave. That area, which is situated about three miles inside the Liberty Rd. exit from Interstate 695, has been without a grocery store since Super Pride closed in 2000. Brown, whose 10 ShopRites are all located in urban locations in or near Philadelphia, is a major national advocate for opening supermarkets in underserved parts of cities called “food deserts.”

The City of Baltimore, under its Baltimore Development Corp. (BDC), is reportedly considering proposals from two developers – KRC Acquisition Inc., which has proposed a 50,000-square- foot full-service grocery store with a pharmacy and 113 parking spaces and, Vanguard Equities/ROC Inc., which has proposed a 53,625-square-foot full-service grocery store with a pharmacy, a 12,000-square-foot retail space and about 280 parking spaces. The agency is reviewing proposals and should render a decision before the end of the year.

Wakefern, which posted some of the best sales increases for its ShopRite supermarket members and corporately owned PriceRite discount stores in the industry (overall retail revenue increased 10.4 percent to $11.7 billion last year) is also expanding its base in Connecticut with the recent acquisition of 11 Shaw’s Supermarkets and by adding more stores in its core New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York markets.

The company’ success was mirrored by the Klein supermarket conversions. Those seven stores (six in Harford County and one in Baltimore County) posted the highest percentage sales increase of any retailer operating in the Baltimore-Washington market over the past year. Sales rose from $111.8 million to $131.9 million.