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TOUR: Shop N Bag - Farmingdale, NJ

Shop N Bag
Owner: John Doyle
Opened: 1993
Cooperative: Allegiance Retail Services
Location: 10 Bank St, Farmingdale, NJ
Photographed: December 2020
We are here in the small town of Farmingdale, New Jersey to tour the last operating Shop N Bag! A longtime Philadelphia area cooperative, Thriftway Shop N Bag finally was dissolved in 2016 (the majority of the remaining stores were converted to Your Local IGA stores, run by the Retail Marketing Group, and supplied by Bozzutto's of Cheshire, CT). Those stores all became IGAs, but this one remains a Shop N Bag but under the Allegiance Retail (Foodtown/Pathmark/Green Way) cooperative. It's unclear exactly to me the arrangement that allows them to continue using the name, but it seems that a subsidiary of C&S Wholesale Grocers of Keene, NH licenses the name to this store and/or Allegiance, as C&S also supplies Allegiance stores. By the way, here's some solid background on early Thriftway Shop N Bag.
The 16,000 square foot store is the only one in Farmingdale, a very small inland Monmouth County borough. The next closest supermarkets are a ShopRite each in Howell, to the southwest, and Belmar, to the southeast, as well as an ACME to the northwest in Freehold where we'll be heading next. Those stores are each roughly five miles away, which in New Jersey is quite the distance.
I'm not sure what occupied this space prior to this Shop N Bag's opening in 1993, though it's also possible it was a different Shop N Bag owner. We enter to an expansion out the left side of the store, with produce extending out to the side. The first aisle has meat lining the left side, the outside wall, with dairy on the back wall. Deli is in the back right corner, with frozen foods in the last aisle.
We can definitely see that the store is old, probably dating long back before 1993, but it's also been fixed up very nicely with a brand new floor at the time of my visit, and a fresh coat of paint around the store. Above we're looking from the produce department over into the main store.
Here we can see the front end and customer service counter, looking into the main store from the expansion. The entrance is just out of frame to the right.
Meats, in older but refurbished cases, in the first aisle. New flooring looking good!
And looking towards the back of the first aisle. This store is pretty much a Foodtown with a different sign on the front, as the entire program (right down to the price tags) is Foodtown-related. The storebrand is also Foodtown branded, instead of the generic Best Yet.
A look across the back wall. Once again, we see older dairy cases that have been upgraded with doors. I'd assume prior to an expansion, produce took up the space where meat is now, and meat would've been here on the back wall.
We can see here that the aisle markers, in an unusual place, are mounted to the beams running across the ceiling of the store. I actually like it, as it makes the aisles look less visually cluttered. The whole store is streamlined.
A mixture of older and newer shelving...
Deli/bakery takes up the back right corner of the store, although I'm not sure there is an in-store bakery. The right side wall of the store is partially on the diagonal due to the property's constraints.
I've gotta say, I like the blue and white color scheme here. The tile backsplash behind the deli looks especially sharp...
And the last aisle, which is shorter than the rest, is lined with frozen foods cases that continue onto the front wall.
A look across the front-end, with customer service and the office on the side of the store opposite produce...
This is a good place to see that the store is definitely older, and even the decor itself is on the older side, but it's been nicely maintained over the years and fixed up more recently. Speaking of fixed up recently, tomorrow's stop is up in Freehold, about five miles to the northwest, at the newly-renovated ACME on The Market Report!


  1. Before it was a Shop N Bag, this store was a Norkus Foodtown. I'm not sure if it closed before becoming Shop N Bag, or was something else in the interim. We used to shop here on occasion in the 80s. I lived around the corner from this store from 2012-2017. At that time, they had the best quality produce of any grocery store in the area.

  2. This is the story as I had heard it. The original Norkus Foodtown as owned by Francis Norkus's parents was Old Bridge, Freehold and Farmingdale. When they passed away sometime in the 70's, the company was split between Francis and his sibling. The sibling got Farmingdale and Old Bridge and Francis got Freehold and cash. The cash that he got was used towards purchasing Neptune City and Pt Pleasant from another Foodtown operator. Francis Norkus opened Manalapan in around 1979 in a former Grand Union, a new Neptune store in the late 80's and Raintree around 1991. The operator of Farmingdale and Old Bridge went out of business during the supermarket strike of 1993. Both of those stores opened as Shop and Bag shortly afterwards, but I think that they were different operators. Old Bridge closed a couple years later, but Farmingdale survived.

    1. Thank you for all the history! Glad to have you filling in the gaps.

  3. In relation to the name, possibly something that allows those who have it to continue using it, even though the main entity is no longer existing?

    That's what happened with Howard Johnson's (in the restaurant side, not the hotels) - no new ones are allowed, but those who had the name could continue using it (which is how you now have just the one left, even though it isn't quite what most would remember).

    1. Yeah, that's certainly a possibility. I know a Thriftway or two continued on, but they didn't last. Thanks for the info!

  4. You could've fooled me that the image at the very top of this post was taken any number of decades ago -- very cool! I love a good broken chain story, so this was a fun post. I agree with you that the way the aisle markers are presented is very unique and works perfectly for this store. I also feel that the décor is somewhat dated, but I don't mind, as it looks super clean, goes with the overall atmosphere of the store, and even makes me a little bit nostalgic (as it reminds me of Books-a-Million's old logo).

    1. Yeah, definitely not the most modern but looking really good these days. I have at least one more store with this decor package photographed, and it's looking even better there with a nice fresh repaint along with updated and upgraded fixtures and flooring.

  5. Other than two "Freshtown" stores in NY, this is the only non-Foodtown branded store that comes up in the Foodtown store locator (though some are co-branded). So yes, it's a Foodtown in all but name.

    1. Yeah, not sure why they went with that name up here in NY. These were a bunch of old Grand Unions that joined with the Foodtown group after GU's bankruptcy - I want to say 6 or 8 originally, but many have (obviously) since closed. The Amenia looks to be the only one left of that group and it is an area kind of out from many other stores which is probably why it continues.

      The second one (Margaretville) was a long time A&P holdout separate from the rest (Pleasant Valley was the next closest, probably 40-50 miles away) that they eventually wanted to get rid of and again an area with not much else so also likely how Freshtown got in and continues to stay.

    2. The Foodtown/Freshtown question is an interesting rabbit hole I remember going down one time. The summary is that at the time, the cooperative was "Foodtown Inc." (so that's after Twin County Grocers but before Allegiance Retail Services was formed in 2012), and the union had a contract with Foodtown Inc. so when PSK opened a few Foodtown stores in former Grand Unions that were non-union, the union objected because even though their contract didn't explicitly say that it would apply to any new Foodtowns, it was between the union and Foodtown Inc., not the members, and they argued that because it applied to the cooperative under the name Foodtown, it should also apply to any subsequent stores under the name Foodtown, regardless of ownership. Eventually the dispute was settled by rearranging the contracts -- if I'm not mistaken, the union now has contracts with each individual member rather than the cooperative (and that's how it's typically done), so I believe not every Foodtown store is union now. However, PSK Foodtowns are otherwise union so the non-union stores were switched to Freshtown. That way the union can have a contract covering PSK Foodtown stores explicitly, but not necessarily the PSK Freshtown stores. I believe the PSK Pathmark is union, though I assume that's also under its own contract.

    3. That makes sense, just not something I had heard of (until now - thanks for the explanation!).

  6. This has been a food store since the 1950's at least. My family has shopped there since. The lay out hasn't changed much over the years. Deli was always on back wall and meat on the other side.


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