Atlantic City Hasn't Had a Supermarket in 15 Years, $19M in Public Money Spent For One

Atlantic City will soon have its first supermarket in 15 years after a government agency stepped in with nearly $19 million of public money because private sectors declined, the Associated Press reported.

The state-run Casino Reinvestment Development Authority broke ground Thursday on land the state already owned for the new supermarket ShopRite located a few blocks away from the casinos. The agency will retain ownership of the building and all its fixtures, and a private company, Village Super Market Inc., will operate it.

"For 15 years, Atlantic City's food options have been limited to bodegas and small corner markets offering few healthy options," New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said. "Everything families will need will be right here. We're finally going to water this food desert."

The last supermarket, an IGA, closed 15 years ago in an area where planned redevelopment never took off.

The closure has made it particularly difficult for families trying to feed themselves and their children healthy food, said Aliyah Cherrisse, an Atlantic City mother who spoke on behalf of families led by women.

City residents either have to drive, take a bus or commercial transportation to supermarkets on the mainland, a time-consuming, often expensive proposition, she said.

Construction is expected to begin next year and will take 13 to 15 months.

The hefty state investment was crucial to making the project happen, said Matt Doherty, executive director of the reinvestment agency.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Atlantic City, Supermarket, Ground Breaking Ceremony
Shoveling sand during a groundbreaking ceremony on November 18, 2021, for the first supermarket in 15 years in Atlantic City, New Jersey, are, from left, Bill Sumas, the store operator, Matthew Doherty, executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, Mo Butler, chairman of the agency, Governor Phil Murphy, and Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver. Wayne Parry/AP Photo

"Without a massive public subsidy, no grocery store would be willing to build in Atlantic City," he said. "The numbers just don't work. Atlantic City has massive pockets of poverty; some census tracts have 60 percent of people living in poverty. This had to be a publicly funded project to occur."

"Not everyone was lining up to come here," added state Senate President Steve Sweeney.

Bill Sumas, chairman of Village Super Market, would not say after the ceremony whether the project could have been done without public financing. Village, a publicly-traded company with sales of over $1.6 billion annually, operates 30 ShopRite stores in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

The new supermarket will be "a burden lifted off of the matriarchs of our community," Cherrisse said. "I thank you for seeing the opportunity in Atlantic City, and the value we have here."

The supermarket will be built on North Ohio and Baltic avenues.

Atlantic City, Supermarket, Ground Breaking Ceremony
Bill Sumas, left, chairman of Village Super Market Inc., listens to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, right, after a groundbreaking ceremony November 18, 2021, for the first supermarket in Atlantic City in 15 years. The state-run Casino Reinvestment Development Authority broke ground Thursday on a new ShopRite a few blocks from the casinos on land the state already owned. Wayne Parry/AP Photo