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This article by Richard K. Rein was prepared for the April 9, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

On Supermarkets

Let us now praise famous supermarkets. I am writing

about Pathmark, the now departed, 24-hour, seven-day-a-week food emporium

in Windsor Green on Route 1 South. From the time when I was first

plunged into the daunting world of shopping for food and household

items for myself and two growing boys, until last month when the store

was shut down for lack of business, the Pathmark was my supermarket

of choice.

For me the big attraction in a supermarket is not organic produce

or grass-fed beef but rather the hours of operation. A fumbling bachelor

competing for space in a crowded supermarket aisle — trying to

calculate which detergent is a better value on a shelf packed with

dozens of different brands in dozens of different sizes with a variety

of special coupons and store deals advertised — is not a pretty

sight. At Pathmark the aisles were exceptionally wide, and at Tuesday

night at 11:30 p.m. exceptionally accessible.

At Pathmark, for every brand name staring at you with one price, the

supermarket had a house brand right next to it, with a price that

was often 30 or 40 percent less. A six pack of SunMaid raisins in

those 1.5 ounce boxes: $1.79. Pathmark raisins packaged in the exact

same way: $1.20

And Pathmark always had deals. There was a special place at the Windsor

Green store, near the last aisle where the paper and plastic products

were stocked, where Pathmark would fill a table with odd tools —

most priced at $5 or less. I have an 18-inch steel pry bar that I

carry with me every day. It was a $3 item at Pathmark.

A month or so before the closing, a Pathmark employee was killed trying

to cross Route 1 from the spot where the NJ Transit bus had stopped.

That tragedy put Pathmark into the chatter at cocktail parties and

social gatherings — I was amazed at how many people identified

themselves as Pathmark devotees for pretty much the same reasons as

I went. Here was a place that everybody went to because nobody was

ever there. It was the opposite of Yogi Berra’s famous restaurant

that was so crowded nobody ever went there anymore. In the weeks since

Pathmark’s demise I have been searching for another supermarket with

similarly generous hours. Here are some of them:

Wegmans, Nassau Park Boulevard, Princeton. 609-919-9300.

Open 7 days from 6 a.m. to midnight.

Wegmans was my first stop after Pathmark closed. The chain has a store

in Johnson City, New York, that is the talk of the town in that area

where relatives of mine live. Because I dread the Nassau Park parking

lot I went well after 10 p.m. But the store was too much for me —

some sections seemed like a full-scale kitchen appliance store. I

never did find the raisins.

Genuardi’s, Princeton-Hightstown Road, East Windsor. 609-371-7678.

Open Monday through Saturday 6 a.m. to midnight and Sunday 6 a.m.

to 10 p.m. After Wegmans I crossed Genuardi’s off my list — my

image was that it was similarly upscale and just not right for novice

shoppers.

McCaffrey’s, North Harrison Street, Princeton. 609-683-1600.

Open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Sunday from

8 a.m. until 9 p.m. McCaffrey’s on Princeton-Hightstown Road in West

Windsor, 609-799-3555, has the same hours, except it closes at 8 p.m.

on Sunday.

When I have to go shopping with my kids, this is now my market of

choice. It’s clean, friendly, and easy to figure out. It’s also more

expensive than Pathmark, but the produce — especially — seems

to be consistently better.

ShopRite of Montgomery, Route 206 North and Route 518,

Skillman. 609-279-9800. Open 6 a.m. to midnight seven days a week.

This is a little out of my way, but I like the hours and will keep

it as a backup choice.

Super Fresh, Schalks Crossing Road, Plainsboro. 609-378-0226.

Open 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Now that Pathmark is gone, Superfresh is the only 24/7 supermarket

in the area. I had high hopes when I went there (at 7 a.m. on a recent

Sunday morning), but left a little disappointed. Problem No. 1: The

signs listing the products in each aisle were placed in a way that

forced me to walk to the head of each aisle in order to read them.

Problem No. 2: Those SunMaid raisins were $1.99 a six-pack. The store

brand, America’s Choice, were $2.19! I shared this with an accomplished

shopper, and she immediately surmised that the store brand had been

mislabeled. I should have brought both to the checkout, I was advised.

Acme Markets, Princeton-Hightstown Road, Princeton Junction.

609-452-2354. Open daily Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 11

p.m., 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Recently renovated, the Acme is

a little more upscale than it had been, but not intimidating for an

amateur. On the very first visit I manage to find the raisins:

The house brand is 50 cents cheaper than SunMaid.

At the checkout the cashier presents the acid test: Would I like an

Acme Supercard? Yes, I say. I put it in my wallet, next to the Advantage

Club card from Pathmark.

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