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Special Report: Universal Food Markets - City of Orange, NJ

Universal Food Markets
Owner: Vishnu Patel
Opened: 2023
Cooperative: Key Food Stores
 16-26 N Day St, City of Orange, NJ
Photographed: March 3, 2023
Brief Lehigh Valley interruptions. I've been documenting a lot of the expansion of Key Food, the Matawan, NJ-based cooperative started in Brooklyn in 1937. Today the cooperative is almost 400 stores, mostly in and around New York City. And here in New Jersey, we've seen the Universal group of stores, which is made up of Universal Food Markets in Rahway, Paterson, and Camden; CTown locations in Orange and Hackensack; Bravo in Newark; Super El Rey and Eagle in Elizabeth; the Hackensack Market in Hackensack; and Golden Mango in Paterson. Rahway, both stores in Paterson, Camden, and most recently, this store in Orange have joined Key Food, meaning that I can only assume the other stores aren't far behind. The stores were all previously affiliated with either Krasdale or Retail Grocers Group.
Because CTown is a brand of the Krasdale cooperative, the Orange store had to change its name when joining Key Food. It has become a Universal Food Markets, and is fully listed as such on the Key Food website.
And though the store now has a Universal banner with the same logo as what we see in post-renovation Rahway, I had the fantastic luck of visiting the store at exactly the moment when the folks at Retail Fluent Media were removing the old CTown signage around the store. As you can see in the above images, the sign facing Day Street had been removed by the time I got there, and just a big gray rectangle was in its place...
...and the sign was, in pieces, on the sidewalk near the store.
Now I don't think you fully realize just how big a sign like this one below is, especially since it's a relatively small sign. We'll see some scale shortly.
So I had to stand across the street for a little while and watch the CTown signs officially come down!
The bucket truck got into position, and then the process of removing the sign began. First I believe they secured the sign to the roof of the store, then loosened it all around, then secured it to their bucket, then slowly lowered it to the ground.
So now with the people for scale, we can see this sign that looks really small is actually massive. The C alone comes up to the guys' chest when they stand at the bottom of it...
Notice the cables which hold the sign in place while the rest of the work is going on.
We had the benefit (which I'm sure to them was a disadvantage) of a windy day, meaning that the sign flapped around a fair amount which allows us to see what parts are disconnected and what parts were still on the building.
It doesn't appear to be particularly high-tech, especially since this sign was just a flat panel mounted on the building. They just went around the outside with drills and loosened the screws that held it in place.
And we can tell, as I said, when the bottom was loosened...
...and then the top.
Now comes the fun part.
Once the sign was fully loosened, it slipped just a little bit, which is what we can see below.
Then the sign was fully strapped onto the bucket the two men were standing in, and it was slowly lowered to the ground.
Notice, too, that the old tube lighting on the building was removed. I hope that this store gets a major renovation, and given Rahway's transformation it's not impossible that it gets just as much work. If you tour the CTown in the above linked post, you'll see it's in need of a lot of work.
And down comes the sign.
The sign bends in the middle too, and folded as it hit the ground.
But again, once it's at ground level you can see how large it really was.
Now for the best part. Check out this video of the sign coming down!
And after I left they took down this smaller sign above the entrance, too. But let's head into the store and see what's going on inside...
No substantive changes to the interior, but we do see some new Universal labels on the meat (alongside the older CTown labels). The first week that the store was Universal, they didn't run a circular, and now they're on the standard Key Food circular but with the Universal logo instead of Key Food.
And Key Food is making their presence known in other parts of the store too...
...such as the Key Buy price tags on a few items, and the Urban Meadow (Key Food storebrand) decals on the freezer cases. It's kind of funny to see those decals over full shelves of Krasdale products.
And there's some private label issues in dairy, too, with Krasdale and Avenue A (Associated Supermarket Group's storebrand) instead of any Urban Meadow products. I was here only a few days after the switch to Key Food, so I don't expect the change to happen overnight. Nor is there a reason to, as the change can be easily enough phased in over time.
I hope that this store gets a major renovation like Rahway, but of course, there's no guarantee that it will. Check out more new stores here and here, today's other special report at the Shop Fresh Marketplace in Hackettstown and Nyack Fresh Market in Nyack!