UNION, NJ – A new convenience store is coming to a vacant site at 1042 Salem Road, at the intersection of Salem and Vauxhall Roads, as unanimously approved at last week’s Board of Adjustment meeting.
According to Meredith Marcus of the Hehl Offices of Javerbaum Wurgaft Hicks Kahn Wikstrom & Sinins, representing the applicant Union Salem, LLC, a gas station was located on the property since at least the 1960s and subsequently an auto shop. The site has been vacant for a number of years. Marcus said the gas tanks have been removed and the one remaining building on the site, which houses a chiropractor office, will be demolished to make room for the proposed project.
Marcus said the proposal includes a one-story, 4,200 sq. ft. building to be used as a convenience store. A use variance was being requested from the Board, as a convenience store is not permitted in the BA (business office) Zone.
Anthony Garrett of Bilow Garrett Group Architects and Planners said the plans for the proposed store consist of a new concept in a convenience stores. “This one’s a little bit different, it’s a little more upscale,” said Garrett. He said the store will feature a variety of fresh foods, healthy foods, an upscale coffee bar, juices. “We expect that it will be a nice addition to the neighborhood it’s in.”
Garrett said the exterior will feature a traditional look with brick and limestone and an aluminum and glass storefront. He said the facility will have a 20-car parking area and will introduce more greenery and landscaping. There will be an ingress/egress driveway on Salem Road Ingress, and egress only driveways on Vauxhall Road and Alden Terrace.
Abhay Joshi, managing partner of Union Salem, LLC., said the store will be a family-run business. He said there will probably be 8-10 employees, with three shifts. Joshi said the store will probably open at 5:00 a.m. and close at 10:00 p.m., 7 days a week.
“The vision is to provide a high-quality customer experience to the residents that is different from what the larger convenience store chains offer,” said Joshi, “not only for level of service or product or food offering, but also in terms of the site design and the ambiance you experience when you enter the store.”
Joshi said the plans include fresh food concepts within the store, one of which will be a fresh taco program. “The objective is to have fresh food available for customers for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” he said. “And to supplement that, we plan to have a fresh grab-and-go case with fresh sandwiches, salads, meats, cheeses and other snacks that people who are in a hurry can just grab and go.”
“This is a long-term investment for myself,” said Joshi. “I’m a strong believer that maintaining the facility, both inside and out, is very important. The exterior of the property and the manner in which it is kept on a day to day basis is a direct reflection of myself and I take a lot of pride in maintaining the property in tip-top shape.”
The name of the store has yet been decided, but “Union Market” and “Townley Market” were discussed as possible names. “We just want to be part of the community and something that’s good for the Township overall,” said Joshi.
Traffic engineer, Matthew Seckler of Stonefield Engineering Design, presented the results of a traffic impact study. Seckler said the amount of volume that goes through this intersection can be handled by the current workway network. “A convenience stores lives off of the roadway traffic. What we have found that about half of the customers at convenience stores are already in the roadway network. This could just be a part of their trip chain.”
Seckler said a proposed convenience store does not significantly add to the traffic on the roadway. “Access management of this site has been designed safely and efficiently,” he added. “This is a type of use that is appropriate for this site.”
During the public comment portion of the meeting, one resident from Vauxhall Road said, “replacing an old, abandoned gas station with a nice, attractive building, you can’t go wrong.” The resident, who said he was speaking on behalf of some of his neighbors, said, “the sooner the better.”
A Salem Road resident voiced concerns about the potential traffic and safety for school children, but said, “we do need something there. It is an eyesore. [The plans] look great.”