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Update: Shop Fresh Marketplace - Hackettstown, NJ

Shop Fresh Marketplace
Owner: Nick Nasser
Opened: March 3, 2023
Cooperative: Great Valu Markets
 7 Naughright Rd, Hackettstown, NJ
Photographed: June 13, 2023
We return to Shop Fresh Marketplace of Hackettstown, which opened in March in a former A&P on route 46 just outside of the town. In fact, I attended the soft opening on its first day in business, March 3rd. An official ribbon-cutting was later held on April 1st. I returned to the store on June 13th to find the store well on its way to going out of business. Think I'm exaggerating? I was one of two customers in the store and found the shelves mostly empty...
While the store is still very attractive, it is also clearly soon to close. Social media posts as far back as late April show shelves beginning to empty out, and clearly that process has only continued. Most of the service departments have closed, too, leaving only the deli in operation. All the prepared foods are gone...
...and although the service deli counter is still operational, it was pretty light on stock and the packaged deli items next to the service counter were almost gone completely too.
The cheese counter was all but gone too, with the low refrigerator under the signage empty and the island almost completely empty.
And there was absolutely nothing left in the bakery department, nor the seafood department (which apparently closed, according to reviews online, in early May -- just about a month after the official grand opening).
So let's discuss timeline here. The store opened for business on March 3rd, and it wasn't quite fully stocked as I documented in my opening coverage. It appears to have been fully stocked for the grand opening on April 1st, but by early May, stock was already starting to thin out (like with the seafood department). Since this store seems to have been fairly low-volume, even in its early days, the stock didn't sell that fast, and that means for the store to have reached this point just a little over three months after its opening, management must have stopped ordering certain categories a month or so prior. Now let's add to that, at least in my experience ordering from UNFI (which supplies this store) at my previous job, they typically require 14-day notice for orders. That means ordering must have stopped, at least for some things, around 2 weeks after the grand opening. Now, if you know your new business is so low-volume after 6 weeks of business that you're going to stop ordering, wouldn't you also know that at 4 weeks in so you could skip the grand opening (since it's terrible optics to hold a grand opening and then close so shortly thereafter)? Or did they truly think that the grand opening would drawn enough people to the store in that short time?
While the hardware and nonfoods departments were better stocked than the other departments, they, too were starting to thin out.
But shelf-stable groceries were clearly coming down to the end.
A commenter on my post about Nasser's previous store, Highland's Market by Shopwell, theorized that "the owner is not paying his bills and the suppliers are cutting him off." While obviously I have no idea whether that's the case here, I don't have any other convincing theories of how the store could deteriorate so drastically, so quickly.
There's still meat, but barely any. I could count the number of chicken packages on my fingers.
And unfortunately, it's the same situation in the dairy department.
I have to imagine the cooperative that represents this store, Great Valu Markets, is not thrilled with this store's condition, if they monitor such things. An interesting note is that this store's owner, Nick Nasser, has jumped around from one cooperative to another over his 10-year time as a supermarket owner. South Amboy was opened as a Key Food in 2013 (note that that article mentions Nasser's Staten Island store, but I don't know where it was or when it operated) and then was abruptly changed to CTown in 2014 before burning down in 2015; Elizabeth was announced as a Key Food, then a Foodtown, and opened as Supermarkets Plus affiliated with IGA in 2015 and closed in 2017; Middlesex was announced as a Foodtown, then a Supermarkets Plus IGA, then opened as an independent Price Saver Fresh Marketplace and was in business April to September 2019. West Milford was Highland's Market by Shopwell, affiliated with ASG and open from October 2020 to April 2022; then this store was announced as a Shopwell and opened as Shop Fresh affiliated with Great Valu. When Middlesex closed, the LLC that owned it filed for bankruptcy, and ultimately, the property was sold to a SuperFresh owner that is now preparing to open the store as a SuperFresh.
Will some other tenant be interested in this space when Shop Fresh closes? ALDI, LIDL, and Grocery Outlet have all been interested in New Jersey expansion lately, and there's none of the above in this immediate area. It's always possible a Key Food or ASG operator (or some other similar store) could venture out here to western NJ, but I think that's not particularly likely. And I assume that, because the store was vacant for so long (2015-2023), the obvious choices like ShopRite, Stop & Shop, ACME, and Weis are not interested.
And of course, there's no bread on the shelves either, hardly. This store's very very short tenure would suggest a poor location or the wrong pricing, but in the context of the owner's prior failures, I think the problem is not the store but the operator. But we'll see how this plays out over time. Don't forget to see today's other reports, on upcoming Food Depot Supermarkets in Belleville and East Orange!


  1. You might think someone would learn after having that many stores and none of them sticking around long (as you note, over a 10 year period, but it looks like about 3+ years worth of time total out of that with no operating stores), but apparently that someone doesn't seem to.

    I suppose the idea of a "grand opening" would make sense to try to get people to pay attention to the store, but that obviously didn't work either.

    1. Right, agreed on both points.

      I am torn between feeling bad for the guy for trying so many times without any success and feeling like if he's truly failing this much then it's on him. Apparently he had a successful career as a 7-11 owner for some time before venturing into supermarkets, although I only see evidence of him owning 7-11 stores from 2004-2008. Of course he may have (and probably did) own stores before and after that, but those are the only years I can find actual evidence from, and of course it's harder to find owners of 7-11 stores than independent supermarkets. Could he truly be a well-intentioned convenience store owner who just can't quite get his business off the ground in the supermarket field? Does he simply not care enough about the supermarket businesses to put in the work to make them succeed? Or is there something else going on here?

      His partnership with Frank Manzo, who is said to be a grocery investor from Chicago, and together they formed Supermarkets Plus, the original entity. With some searching a while ago, I found this presentation online, although be aware that if you go to this link, it will download a PDF:

      I'm unclear how much, if anything, Supermarkets Plus actually did. The presentation talks about acquiring Save-A-Lot stores, did they ever actually do that though? I can't find any evidence they did. The presentation talks about using the Farmer Jack brand, which Manzo's company Appletree Capital actually did own, but the trademark has been canceled. And again, I can't find any evidence any substantive planning or opening was done with the Farmer Jack brand. And ultimately, their plan noted in the presentation is to transition from owner to coop, presumably selling the stores individual owners. The presentation even identifies acquisition targets, but as far as I can tell they weren't up for sale at the time and haven't been sold since. The whole thing seems a little... off, but not exactly completely wrong.

      There's always the famous divide between expectations and reality, but the chasm between the idea of Supermarkets Plus becoming the next big grocery cooperative and the reality that the stores affiliated with their people (although I'm not positive whether Manzo has been involved with the latest stores) change cooperatives almost comically frequently seems particularly wide.

      And agreed about the grand opening. Again, the whole thing just feels a little off, but there's nothing clearly wrong (or illegal, as far as I can tell) happening here. I just find it hard to believe that this happens through pure incompetence.

    2. Oh, and one more thing: Supermarkets Plus LLC, the original entity, filed for bankruptcy in 2019. As far as I can tell, they liquidated all their assets and then formed new companies to own the subsequent stores.

  2. Thank you for staying on this! Have been to this store a few times, always hoping for the better, but clearly it’s getting worse. Not sure what the owner is trying to accomplish by sinking his own business. The GreatValu login device at the registers was removed and it seems this store is no longer listed on the Website. Only one cashier. Saw no other staff. Almost no meat, dairy, or produce. There were a few shoppers with empty carts.

    1. I agree, it's been straight downhill since opening day. It's a real shame. And you're right, the store seems to no longer be a member of Great Valu -- and seems to no longer be running a circular. A Google review by a presumably gullible customer says they're "renovating," which makes me wonder if they've posted some sign about closing for renovation at the front. They did the same at West Milford right before it closed for good.

    2. That review cracked me up, to be honest. Renovations? The store opened barely 4 months ago! I stopped by this morning specifically to see if there was anything posted about renovations just to be sure (and I needed a couple things). Nothing on the doors or anywhere obvious. Barely any produce and what was there looked end of life. An employee was picking through the spoiled items. No meat. A few hamburger/hot dog rolls. Bakery had bread but who knows how old. Dairy and ice cream very limited product. Deli looked closed, to be honest. Shelves still largely empty. Prices went up to the point where it will price out a lot of people for the products they do have. One customer walked out without purchasing anything. He clearly looked like he had visited the gym next door. Another customer was behind me at the register and he inquired about the GreatValu POS machines being removed. I was nearly out of earshot when I heard the cashier was explaining they are making some changes. I could see how someone would believe they were renovating. I'd be shocked if this store makes it to September. There's definitely no effort going into advertising or enticing folks to come in. Raising prices isn't going to help, either. Looks like it's back to driving down to Weis for me!

    3. FYI, looks like this store is going to close in the next few days. Refrigerator/freezer units are shut down. Lots of expired product on the shelves. Supposedly there is a new owner who is going to remodel the store in 1-2 months and open under a new name and with a different distributor. No signage anywhere, just what a cashier said. Cannot say I believe any of this... Not a good look overall.

  3. ...And they're now closed.

  4. They were not up front with employees. Kept saying they were changing vendors and blamed suppliers for issues. Said in a few weeks things would turn around. When they closed they did not alert the employees.

  5. I drove by the other day with 6 men in suits and folders standing out front talking and then inside talking to the owner

  6. The circumstances seem shady (from this vantage point).


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