Owner: Heepal Patel
Location: 1665 Oak Tree Rd, Edison, NJ
Photographed: June 2020
It's time for our third Oak Tree store (see the first and second here). This is probably the strangest store of them all, as we'll see. Built as a 75,000 square foot ShopRite in the 1980s as a replacement store for a 60s location just down the street at 1518 Oak Tree -- now a Subzi Mandi, which we'll see in three days -- this location may have been owned by the Sakers, who own stores to the south, or by the Sitars, who own Carteret and a development just across the Parkway on Oak Tree. Around 2000 it became a Pathmark, which later relocated to the west along Oak Tree to South Plainfield in 2009. That store, at 3600 Park Ave, is now a Saker ShopRite and we'll be touring it when we get out to South Plainfield. But for now, let's focus on this store, which has been subdivided and is now anchored by a 25,000 square foot grocery store -- a third of the size of the original ShopRite and Pathmark. I mentioned in the Patel Brothers post that Patel Brothers is the clear favorite store in this area, and I think we have a clear least favorite.
Barely any cars parked here in the parking lot, and those that we do see to the left are in front of other stores in the mall. The grocery store's parking section was almost eerily deserted...
Heading in, we find that I was the only customer in the place. I honestly found it a little creepy to be literally the only customer in a big ol' supermarket (with maybe 3-4 employees around), so I got out pretty quickly. But I had a hard time figuring out why this store was so unappealing compared to the others. Is it selection? Pricing? Quality?
Produce and refrigerated items in the front half of the first two or three aisles. Clearly, we can see from the stock in the coolers that this store is not doing very well -- there shouldn't be that many empty shelves or facings of seltzer and orange juice. There's very little produce here.
Warehouse-type bulk selections take up the back half of the store. Is it possible that this store stays in business because of orders from small grocery stores or restaurants instead of retail customers? How else would they possibly be making a profit?
Meanwhile, the front half of the store is standard grocery shelving for retail sales. They are separated by a dividing aisle. Since this store is only 1/3 of the size of the Pathmark, it's much deeper than it is wide.
Perhaps it's not a fair comparison to make, but as far as the hybrid ethnic supermarket-wholesale store goes, the execution at Seabra Foods at Ferry Plaza in Newark absolutely blows this store out of the water. Of course, that was the Seabras' 15th store, so they had some practice. Meanwhile, I can't find any other stores owned by this company.
The aisles are numbered across the front set first, then across the back, so the third aisle in the back is aisle 8. I'm wondering whether these aisle markers are secondhand from somewhere else.
The store is pristine and, in the dry goods section, beautifully stocked. That's likely due to the complete and total lack of customers, though.
This is a bit of a top-heavy store tour, since I had a lot to say at the beginning, but the rest of the store is just mostly aisles.
Lots of space is filled by nonfoods and bulk selections.
The last aisle contains kitchenware and frozen foods. The frozen department feels gigantic because it lines one whole wall of the store, instead of the more common both sides of the front half of the aisle.
For a very organized store, the front end was quite messy. It's also a bit odd that the registers are set up along a desk (like you might see at a Marshalls, for instance, or a Goodwill) instead of as individual checkstands. It might just be my perception, but these ceilings feel much higher than what Pathmark was putting in most of its stores. Maybe the ShopRite owner built the store that way and Pathmark just kept it because it didn't make any sense to lower the ceiling. It does make this space feel much larger than 25,000 square feet.
Up next we're going to cross Wood Avenue into Iselin, which is a part of Woodbridge Township, for our next three stores. Head over to The Market Report tomorrow to see the next one!