Even before the lease for the Super Fresh grocery store at 322 W. Bridge St. in the New Hope Shopping Center expired on Dec. 31 of last year, speculation about who would take over the challenged retail space had been rife for months.
But talk of interest in the site by the likes of Trader Joe’s or McCaffrey’s has so far proven wishful thinking. Meanwhile, other retailers in the shopping center, most of whom are well-established businesses with loyal clienteles, are feeling the pressure of a vacant anchor store.
Now, the names of two grocers — Weis Markets and German food giant Aldi — are being bandied about as potential tenants among members of New Hope’s business community interviewed for this article.
Aldi flatly denied interest.
“We don’t currently have plans to share regarding a new store in New Hope,” said Bob Grammer, ALDI Center Valley Division vice president.
ALDI is one of the fastest growing retailers in the U.S. By the end of 2018, the company says there will be nearly 2,000 ALDI stores from coast to coast, serving 45 million customers.
Weis Director of Public Relations Dennis Curtin said the company doesn’t comment on rumors or speculation, and that’s understandable. It’s also not a flat denial, which means that Weis may, in fact, be giving the spot the once-over, as a company of its size typically might within its area of operation.
Weis Markets, Inc., was founded in 1912, and currently employs approximately 18,000.
The agent for New Hope Shopping Center is associated with LINC Real Estate Group of Southampton, and tenaciously indicated his discomfort with commenting in any way.
Nonetheless, the name “Weis” continues to be raised among a variety of New Hope business owners, managers, and employees, who said they have heard anecdotal references and rumors, or have seen intermittent activity at the site of late.
The location in question is well-situated between population concentrations, and New Hope is considered by many to represent an unmet and potentially lucrative market for certain household basics, including prepared food. Originally opened as Delray’s Thriftway in 1979, the supermarket was sold to Clemens in 1999, and became a Super Fresh in 2006.
Aside from the dingy facade, the store’s size is also problematic for many would-be suitors. At around 20,000 square feet, the space is too big for a Trader Joe’s, which typically average 10-12,000 square feet. Unfortunately, it’s also too cramped for many of today’s supermarkets, which often weigh in at around 50,000 square feet, according to the Food Marketing Institute (FMI).
In fact, the grocery industry has argued that 60,000 square feet is the most advantageous size for a store in terms of profits, says FMI.
So, while Weis Markets won’t confirm or deny its interest in the former New Hope Super Fresh, it also hasn’t ruled out taking a peek, and that, at least, is reason for hope.