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Fresh Grocer to shut down in March following four-year legal battle with Penn – The Daily Pennsylvanian

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After almost 20 years of operations, Fresh Grocer will be closing in March.

Credit: Chase Sutton

The Fresh Grocer, located at 40th and Walnut streets, will close its doors in March.

Penn — the store’s landlord — and the Fresh Grocer have agreed to end the supermarket’s tenancy at 40th and Walnut streets on March 31 after nearly 20 years of operations, Penn’s Facilities and Real Estate Services Director of Communications Jennifer Rizzi wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian. 

Carly Spross, director of marketing for the Fresh Grocer’s parent company Metro City Management, said, however, the tenancy will end in early March.

Rizzi wrote that the University hopes to open a new supermarket later this year.

“The University acknowledges and respects Fresh Grocer’s willingness to open a supermarket in University City in 2001 at a time many other operators were unwilling to take that risk,” Rizzi wrote in an email to the DP. “The Fresh Grocer similarly acknowledges and appreciates the University’s willingness to offer it the opportunity to operate an urban supermarket at the 40th and Walnut location.”

Penn terminated the Fresh Grocer’s lease in April 2016, claiming that they failed to renew its lease “in a timely fashion,” according to a Facilities and Real Estate Services statement from December 2016. The Fresh Grocer then filed a lawsuit against the University in December 2016, and the case has been making its way through the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas since then. 

The University and Acme Markets officially announced in April 2017 that an Acme supermarket will replace the Fresh Grocer.

Spross declined to comment on whether an Acme location will replace the Fresh Grocer.

Spross added that there will be no loss of jobs for Fresh Grocer employees. The Fresh Grocer is assisting each of its Walnut Street Fresh Grocer associates with placement at other stores in the company, Spross said.

College junior Danny Cooper, an Under The Button staff writer who worked as a cashier at an Acme in New Jersey during high school summers, said his experience working for Acme was much like working at any other grocery store. Cooper said the time between the Fresh Grocer’s closing and when a new store will open will be “very inconvenient” to students who rely on the Fresh Grocer to buy groceries.

“I’m also worried that there will be a period of time during the school year where there’s no supermarket there,” College sophomore Eden Vance said. 

Cooper added he thinks an Acme store will be more expensive than the Fresh Grocer.

Credit: Chase Sutton

Associates currently working at the Walnut St. location will be placed at other stores.

Vance, who shops at the Fresh Grocer a couple of times a month, said he thinks replacing the supermarket with another one is a good idea because he does not trust the health and sanitation practices at the store.

The Fresh Grocer closed temporarily in August 2019 after inspection officials found three instances of “foodborne illness risk factors” and six instances of a “lack of good retail practices,” according to a report from the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Clean Plates project. The Clean Plates report also noted “visible physical evidence of rodent/insect activity,” including a “heavy accumulation of mice feces” in the food preparation area and mice droppings in the storage area for food packaging materials. 

Vance said he does not find the Fresh Grocer appealing to shop in, but he likes that the store is open 24/7 and hopes the new market will be as well.

With the closure forthcoming, Spross said several other Fresh Grocer locations will continue operation, including the 56th and Chestnut, Grays Ferry, Upper Darby, Progress Plaza, and LaSalle locations.

Spross said the Fresh Grocer will continue offering e-commerce for students through their website and Instacart, where customers can have their groceries delivered to their home, as well as a complimentary transportation service through a partnership with Lyft that provides free rides home to customers who shop at other store locations. 

“We will continue to provide these services throughout the 40th & Walnut Street trading area without stoppage,” Spross said.

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