Newark ShopRite: Bringing Change to the Community

The ShopRite store in central Newark, NJ, is in a part of the city where no other supermarket operates. Without the store, residents wouldn’t have the range of affordable food products available at a 70,000-square-foot supermarket.

New Jersey store provides fresh produce to a food desert.

Originally printed in the February 2024 issue of Produce Business.

When he was readying the first and only ShopRite store in Newark, NJ, Neil Greenstein understood he was opening a supermarket that would serve a food desert in a lower-income community. But, he didn’t fully understand what that meant, and what the role of produce would be in serving the neighborhood.

He learned fast.

Newark is among the lowest-income communities in the state of New Jersey, along with Camden and Atlantic City. So, in 2015, when the ShopRite store opened in central Newark, a part of the city where no supermarket operated, it changed the community. With the store — a 70,000-square-foot supermarket, part of the Keasbey, NJ-based Wakefern Food Co. cooperative — residents have a range of affordable food products available.

Greenstein, a third-generation ShopRite operator, owns Newark ShopRite and another supermarket operating under the banner not far away, and he sits on the Wakefern board.

“Opening the Newark store presented opportunities for us to both expand our family business and make a significant impact in the community by increasing access to fresh and affordable food,” he says.

“It has been an honor to be part of the wonderful revitalization efforts happening in Newark over the last decade,” Greenstein adds. “Opening a store in the city, was also a natural extension of our history of service to the people of Essex County. We owned and operated the Brookdale ShopRite, just eight miles away, for more than 70 years. We wanted to provide the same excellent, full-service supermarket experience to the Newark community.”

Greenstein notes when the store opened, the event was big enough that Cory Booker, former mayor of Newark and now a U.S. Senator, and Chris Christie, New Jersey governor at the time, came by for the celebration.

Despite the notables in attendance at the opening, Greenstein faced naysayers who told him potential customers would never thoroughly utilize a full-range supermarket operation.

“So many times when you open up stores in the inner-city communities, people tell you what you shouldn’t have, what shouldn’t be here,” he says.

However, the store immediately defied expectations. For one thing, the store draws from a wide geographic area well into the Newark suburbs, with people not only driving in, but arriving in cabs and Ubers.

When it came to assortment, observers who thought an inner-city store should shy away from some product categories, such as floral, were wrong again.

“They told me, you don’t need flowers in an inner-city store,” Greenstein says. “Flowers are big. Life is celebrated in this community. And we sell lots of organic products, organic produce and dairy.”

The store is coming off a strong holiday season. In fact, Rich Garcia, assistant store manager, perishables, says Thanksgiving is a big event in the ShopRite produce section. The past Thanksgiving season, the produce section mounted five on-the-floor bins up front, and continually swapped them out during the selling period, says Garcia.

“Between the sweet potatoes, collard greens, the butternut squash, this place is standing room during the holidays,” he asserts.


As it is laid out, the produce department is airy and bright, with clear sightlines. Merchandising incorporates a mix of display vehicles, such as bins, tables and racks on the floor, as well as wall and on-the-floor cold cases. The presentation of bagged and clamshell salads and greens in the vertical cold case is generous, with the Glory brand having a major presence. Packaged salads also occupy the refrigerated fixtures on the floor, with Tanimura & Antle and Fresh Express items being among those displayed.

Garcia says the shopping pattern emerges from the diverse needs and customers Newark ShopRite serves. As such, the range of products is broad, but the store does concentrate more on certain categories.

The presentation of bagged and clamshell salads and greens in the vertical cold case at the Newark ShopRite is generous.

Latino specialties have been growing with the population. “We have a large ethnic assortment: plantains, yucca, yautias,” says Garcia. “But we sell a ton of strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, depending on the market and the sales day.”

“The biggest demographic that’s growing right now is the Hispanic population, so we’re expanding that,” he says. “We’re expanding ethnic items because that customer keeps coming in. You’ll see that in the deli department, in root vegetables.”

Another growing population is professionals, including many who left New York City during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Garcia credits them with accelerating the already solid sales of organics, and reiterates the importance of organic produce despite initial warnings from observers that it wouldn’t generate much enthusiasm.

“The organic customer is looking for more organics, and it ties in with the nonmeat items also. That category in our meat department is expanding also,” he says.

Because of the way departments are set up in the store, various fresh food departments operate adjacent to produce, including the deli. The store even integrates certain displays with produce. For example, a couple of cold cases that house tropical drinks and other Latino-oriented items integrate with the produce department.

Local products are popular as well, and not only in produce. Local honey, bakery items and even a banana pudding producer are proving popular.

Fresh cuts are another category where initial question marks fell over the prospects for sales, but Garcia says demand is strong and not only for basic products, but items such as platters people pick up for their gatherings and events.

“We do great here,” he says. “It’s a festive neighborhood. Every month, there’s a party.”


In a community that features a range of institutions, from the federal courthouse to office buildings to high schools and universities, ShopRite Newark has been able to build a significant catering business, Garcia says.

One of several nearby high schools, St. Benedict is located less than a 10-minute walk down the street from ShopRite. So, the store and the school have built something of a relationship.

“We cater their events,” he says. “They do a backpacking event every year. We fill their backpacks up.”

Greenstein talks about another initiative to support the community. “We were recently selected by the state to install a temperature-controlled locker at the Shani Baraka Women’s Resource Center in the South Ward, which is considered the third most acute food desert in the state,” he says.

Greenstein says once the grocery locker is installed, residents will be able to place online orders from the Brookdale ShopRite, including orders eligible for purchase with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. South Ward residents will then be able to pick up their fresh groceries at the lockers at the community center.

“We’ve also committed to waiving all delivery fees for groceries delivered to the locker. We are excited about this because it’s the first approval under the Food Retail Innovation in Delivery Grant program today, which will help expand access to fresh groceries in Newark’s South Ward,” says Greenstein.


The Newark ShopRite works extensively with the Wonderful Company. Garcia says pistachios are in high demand, which is likely prompted by conspicuous Wonderful bins up front. Still, tub nuts in the rear of the produce section sell well, too.

“We order two or three shippers at a time and just run through them,” he says.

A diverse customer base requires a range of presentations, so the store mixes bulk and packaged produce in many of the displays.

“We do a mixture of both,” says Garcia. “You have the customer that looks for the packages. What you see on the tables, the bulk stuff, we do really well on that.”

ShopRite has brought abundance to a community that was once a food desert and does so with a careful regard to who is shopping the store and how it can support various lifestyles.

“I grew up two blocks from here,” says Garcia. “This was an empty lot for over 20 years. I used to walk past here to go to school every day. It’s fortunate that I got a job here, because I know the customers. For this to be up for the last eight years and thriving, you see something come from nothing.”


ShopRite of Newark, NJ
206 Springfield Ave., Newark, NJ 07103
Phone: 973-273-1060
Hours: Sunday-Saturday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.