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TOUR: Ahart's Market - Blakeslee, PA

Ahart's Market
Owner: George Ahart
Opened: 1999
Cooperative: Great Valu Markets
 248 PA-940, Blakeslee, PA
Photographed: November 29, 2019
We've seen lots of Ahart's in the Lehigh Valley (see Phillipsburg, Bethlehem, and Allentown), but they have two outside of the immediate Lehigh Valley Area -- which are now the only two stores left. Bath and Blakeslee, both to the north of the Lehigh Valley, have remained in business while the other three have closed. Ahart's remains within the Great Valu Markets cooperative, but they're no longer on their website.
At around 36,000 square feet, this store is the largest Ahart's. It opened in 1999 as a new-build, replacing an older store across the street we'll be taking a look at tomorrow.
This is also much nicer than the other, older stores, although it hasn't been renovated since it opened and may be starting to show some age. We enter to the grand aisle on the left side of the store, with produce in the front left corner, then bakery on the outside wall and deli/prepared foods in an island. Meat is on the back wall, with frozen and dairy on the right side.
It really looked like this store was taken care of a lot better than the Lehigh Valley stores. It's possible that the store is higher volume because there are few other shopping options around here.
Prepared foods, unfortunately, were all empty. This is at the front of the deli island.
Moving towards the back, we see lots of bottled beverages. I wonder if this replaced something else that used to be here. There's no real cafe, either, so it's possible this was a coffee shop or something like that.
But the bakery was definitely fully functional, and there aren't any other signs that the store is soon to close like the other locations.
Bakery service counter at the back.
And a slightly strange assortment of departments up next, with candy and prepared dinners (?) next to the bakery.
The deli faces the bakery/cafe area.
On the back wall, we see this is a fairly large store although it's on the older side. Maintenance here is definitely better than the Lehigh Valley stores, too, although it's still not perfect.
Grocery aisles look pretty standard, but clean and organized.
There's a much larger selection here than the Lehigh Valley stores too, which is to be expected because of the store's size.
Great Valu signage over every aisle!
In the back-right corner of the store, we have a service butcher counter opposite dairy and frozen.
Because of the store's Great Valu affiliation, it sells Essential Everyday and Wild Harvest products.
In the front corner, there's a spot that looks like it could've been a pharmacy or bank or something like that.
And then we move onto the front-end...
Even the fact that this store has self-checkouts makes it feel more modern than the others.
By the way, we're only about 10 miles east of White Haven here, and Monday we're headed around 10 more miles east to our next stop on The Market Report!


  1. Ahart's used to be supplied by Fleming. They originally had stores in Blakeslee and Bath. Fleming helped them open up the new location in Blakeslee. They had a location they wanted to open in Allentown, but apparently Fleming would not guarantee the lease. Ultimately they lost the site (I believe it became an LA Fitness, that was coincidently developed by a friend, that has since passed away). The story goes they were upset and switched to SuperValu. SuperValu had, years before, acquired LaneCo (the former FoodLane stores out of Easton PA. They were an early operator of what would have been called HyperMarkets or food and department stores. LaneCo and oddly enough, Jamesway, were big influences on Sam Walton ( 'memba him of WalMart fame, but that is a discussion for another time and place). when SuperValu exited this business, the smaller FoodLane stores mostly ended up in the hands of local independent operators (many stores in this former operation had different names under SuperValue such as PriceSlashers or Ultra IGA). Ahart's got several including the three you mentioned (Philipsburg, Allentown and Bethlehem). As the leases expired, SuperValu, now UNFI, would not continue to guarantee them, and many independent operators lost the sites to larger entities that could offer corporate/investment grade/rated lease guarantees (this is where all but the strongest of independent operators lose out or get put out of business by the big retail/real estate industrial complex). So, the three stores closed - Allentown became a GroceryOutlet, Philipsburg was demolished and became a Chick Fil-A, and Bethlehem was apparently acquired by the C-Town operator across, actually a few blocks away, town in Bethlehem. Even though Bethlehem is a college town of sorts with Lehigh University, it is has become a tremendously Hispanic area (at least in the vicinity of this store), and Ahart's may not have been the best fit for the area.

    Ahart's remains in Blakeslee and Bath, with all of the typical trials and tribulations of an independent grocer. Have not seen or heard of George in literally decades, not since his Fleming affiliated days. But he is hanging in there, and there is certainly some sort of victory in that, especially for an independent grocer.

    Hope this info helps.

    Keep up the good work Zachary!

    1. Thanks for all the details here! Glad to read all about the history of Ahart's and Food Lane and everyone else.

      I agree it's great to see independent grocers hanging on, but I think Ahart's is dangling by a thread. I don't know how Bath is doing, but this one didn't seem to be doing great when I last visited. Empty and closed service counters, limited selections -- but it was generally clean and didn't smell bad, which separated it from Phillipsburg and Bethlehem for sure. Allentown seemed to be a pretty well-run store though. Maybe eventually the stores will be revitalized, either under this ownership or someone else, but we'll have to see.

    2. Ahart’s is still a Great Valu store.
      Lastly, Bethlehem was taken over by AFB a mostly NYC chain. Redid the entire store. You should get out to see it.

    3. I've been but haven't posted pictures yet. And I did get back to this one a couple months ago, and it confuses me why the store is still fully a Great Valu but isn't on the website.


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